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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Ramallah deal 'vague'
Blockade around Yasser Arafat's Ramallah HQ
The Israeli army has left scenes of devastation around Arafat's headquarters
Israel has lifted its blockade on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, following a deal to put six Palestinians wanted by Israel into international custody.

US intervention is said to have been instrumental in arranging the compromise.

Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat has not been allowed to leave Ramallah since December
According to analysts, the breakthrough came after pressure from both US President George Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

In principle, Mr Arafat should now be able to move around freely within the Palestinian territories.

Mr Arafat's spokesman, Marwan Kanafani, told the BBC that according to the spirit of the agreement, the Palestinian leader should now allowed to resume his normal role.

Freedom to move

"The President should be free to move wherever he wants. You know, he is the leader of the Palestinian people, and he has to function accordingly," Mr Kanafani said.

I would say that something in the language is a little bit vague, but we have a demand for [the Palestinian prisoners] to be extradited to Israel

Gideon Meir, Israeli foreign ministry
"I think this is understood by the Israelis, and the Americans and the British. This is the basic element of the agreement."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Danny Shek confirmed that most restrictions on Mr Arafat have been lifted.

But he said Israel would be watching closely to see what the Palestinian leader did with this new freedom.


The Israeli Government says it wants him to use it to "fight terrorism".

However, it has not given any guarantees that if Mr Arafat travelled abroad, he would be allowed back into the Palestinian territories.

Palestinian court hearing
Four of the men were sentenced at a court hearing on Thursday
Furthermore, the Israeli Government says it has not given up on its demand to try the six Palestinian suspects itself in the future.

Their detention is currently being supervised by American and British monitors.

Gideon Meir of the Israeli foreign ministry told the BBC that the language of the deal in respect to Israel trying the men itself was a "little bit vague".

There have also been no details on how long the monitors will supervise the men's' detention.

Jenin mission

Many commentators say that the apparent success of Mr Bush's initiative at ending the Ramallah stand-off is at the expense of the fact-finding mission that the UN was to send to Jenin.

Analysts believe that Washington agreed not to pressure Israel on allowing the UN mission access to Jenin in return for Israel granting Mr Arafat his freedom.

The UN indicated it would disband the mission was after Israel refused to co-operate.

But Palestinian officials say the issue of the Jenin mission was not part of the compromise to get the Israeli siege on Mr Arafat's headquarters lifted.

Palestinian officials are cynical about how much the Israelis have conceded with the new arrangements.

They say the deal would not mean much because Israeli tanks will continue to surround Ramallah and other West Bank towns.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"Arafat seems to be staying in place, at least until the US and British guards get to the compound"
See also:

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26 Apr 02 | Middle East
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25 Apr 02 | Middle East
Zeevi dispute unresolved
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