Time for two-state solution is running out -Arafat


Palestinian President Yasser Arafat warned in an interview published yesterday a barrier being built by Israel in the West Bank threatened the two-state solution at the heart of the US-backed peace road map.

Arafat's comments came as the United States, the main peace broker in the Middle East, signalled its efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have reached a stalemate.

"Time is running out for a two-state solution," Britain's The Guardiannewspaper quoted Arafat as saying in an interview from his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, where Israeli forces have penned him down over the past two years.

Israel has threatened a unilateral separation along the line of the wall snaking through the West Bank that it says is being built to keep out suicide bombers. Palestinians call it a bid to annex or fragment occupied land and have said they could respond by demanding a single bi-national state.

The prospect of a bi-national state incorporating Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip raises fears among Israeli leaders that Palestinians would become a majority in such a state.

A US-backed "road map" for peace calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel by 2005 has been stalled by violence. Palestinians and Israelis blame each other for failure to honour obligations under the road map.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said Arafat's comments were not "worthy of any response".

"Arafat continues to be a champion of words and a man of no deeds when it comes to peace," he said.