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The BBC's Martha Dixon
"He became active in trying to foster co-existence with the Israeli people"
 real 56k

The BBC's Chris Morris
"A voice of moderation within the Palestinian political spectrum"
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Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian Legislative Council
"Losing him is a national loss"
 real 28k

Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Top Palestinian official dies
Faisal Husseini in Kuwait City
Faisal Husseini was often on Israeli television
The top Palestinian Liberation Organisation official in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, has died of a heart attack.

He died in Kuwait, where he was taking part in a Gulf conference on relations with Israel.


It's a loss for peace

Ahmed Shoukry, family friend
Doctors had treated 60-year-old Mr Husseini in his hotel room hours before he was due to make a speech.

Mr Husseini was an influential Palestinian figure, who had tried to work with Israel but whose position had hardened during the current fighting.

Tributes

Yossi Beilin, an Israeli MP who often made public appearances with Mr Husseini during the peace process, paid tribute to him.

"He was a partner for many small understandings and agreements about Jerusalem in order to prevent eruption of violence."

The news of Mr Husseini's death was announced by the Voice of Palestine radio station in the West Bank and Gaza.

Faisal Husseini holding an olive branch and a Palestinian flag in East Jerusalem
Husseini was viewed as a moderate by many Israelis
"The Palestinian National Authority, the PLO and the Palestinian people announce with deep sorrow the death of the hero Faisal Husseini, who passed away this morning in Kuwait," the radio station said.

Palestinian cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman said: "We have lost today one of our honest men".

At Mr Husseini's home in east Jerusalem, his wife, Najat, 53, and son, Abdul Kader, 25, cried and shouted "Faisal! Faisal!".

Mr Husseini also had a daughter, Fadwa, 23.


He was a true leader - humble and gentle

Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian Legislative Council
Ahmed Shoukry, a family friend who was among about 100 people gathered outside said: "It's a big loss, not only for the Palestinians but for the rest of the world... It's a loss for peace."

Mr Husseini's body was taken from the hotel in a coroner's vehicle. Palestinian officials said it was now being flown to Jordan, to be met by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The body will then be taken via Ramallah on the West Bank to east Jerusalem for burial.

"This is God's will. God willing we will bury him next to his father," said one of his Palestinian bodyguards.

Hebrew speaker

Mr Husseini arrived in Kuwait on Tuesday, on the first visit by a senior Palestinian official to the Gulf Arab state in 11 years.

He was a Palestinian standard-bearer for resistance to Israel and a prominent member of the PLO.

In the 1980s, after spending several years in Israeli jails and under house arrest, he became active in trying to work towards coexistence with the Israelis.

He taught himself Hebrew and was a frequent guest on Israeli television and radio talk shows, explaining the Palestinian point of view.

Tougher line

But he took a tougher line during the current fighting with Israel, and he was in Kuwait to take part in a seminar on freezing the normalisation of ties with Israel when he died.

"Even when he died, he was doing his duty for his people and land," said Mr Abdel Rahman.

On Wednesday, Mr Husseini had met Kuwaiti parliament's foreign affairs committee and Foreign Minister Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem al-Sabah.

Relations between Kuwait and the Palestinians have remained frozen since the emirate accused Mr Arafat of backing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

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See also:

30 May 01 | Middle East
Angry welcome for Palestinian in Kuwait
30 May 01 | Middle East
Mid-East talks resume amid clashes
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