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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Row over El Salvador Arafat park
Bust of Yasser Arafat in San Salvador
Families of Palestinian descent came to mark the dedication
Businessmen in El Salvador have sparked a diplomatic row with Israel after renaming a city square in honour of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Israel is protesting by delaying the return of its ambassador to San Salvador, after a trip to Tel Aviv.

Officials in Israel called the naming of Arafat Park and the unveiling of a bust of the late leader, who died last year, "hurtful and insulting".

Many Salvadorans, including President Tony Saca, are of Palestinian descent.

In a statement, Israel's foreign ministry said the renaming of the plaza had caused "dismay".

"No capital has taken similar step to honour the memory of someone whose legacy was so negative," it said.

'Ill will'

Many among El Salvador's business community are descendants of Palestinian immigrants who emigrated to Central America during the 19th century and early 20th century, before the establishment of Israel.

Mr Saca and the rival he defeated in a presidential election last year, Schafik Handal, are both descended from migrants from the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.

San Salvador's Palestinian business community privately erected a bust to Mr Arafat on the city's Jerusalem Street, and inaugurated the Arafat Park nearby.

Last year, the same businessmen dedicated Palestine Square in the city, and unveiled a map that placed Israel inside a larger country of Palestine.

Israel called the businessmen "people of ill will" and said it would delay the return to San Salvador of ambassador Yonatan Peled in order to express its displeasure.

Obituary: Yasser Arafat
11 Nov 04 |  Middle East
Country profile: El Salvador
12 Mar 05 |  Country profiles

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