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Friday, 12 July, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Arafat vows to stay - for now
Yasser Arafat talking to reporters, 12 July.
A defiant Arafat says he is not ready to retire yet
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he has no immediate plans to step down - although he has not decided whether to run in January elections.


I have been elected by the people. I am not a coward.

Yasser Arafat
"It is not only up to me. It will be up to many people," Mr Arafat said.

His comments come amid calls by Washington for Palestinians to choose a new leadership and carry out democratic reforms.

Mr Arafat said reforms of the Palestinian Authority were already under way and that he would welcome American help in furthering the process.

Changes

But Mr Arafat made clear he would not step down any time soon.

"I have been elected by the people. I am not a coward," he told the Associated Press and Bahraini Television.

President George W Bush
Bush wants Arafat out
"I am not ready to betray the people who elected me," Mr Arafat added.

He also said he had not decided whether to stand for re-election.

"This has to be decided in our senior leadership," he said.

Mr Arafat added that the legislative and leadership elections planned for January would be monitored by international observers.

Outlining the US framework for peace in the Middle East, President Bush last month called for a "new and different Palestinian leadership".

"If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on America's support for creation of a provisional state of Palestine," he said

When asked about US demands for reform, Mr Arafat cited changes in the Palestinian security forces, which have now been brought under the authority of a new interior minister.

The Palestinian leader said he wanted Washington to help with the reforms.

Talks

Mr Arafat said a Palestinian delegation would meet Israeli leaders on Saturday to discuss "many issues".

An Israeli tank guarding Arafat's Ramallah headquarters
Israel occupies most Palestinian towns in the West Bank
After a months-long hiatus, high-level talks started last week between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and members of Mr Arafat's cabinet.

The talks are focusing on security and the economic plight of the Palestinian territories.

Israel has re-occupied seven of the eight major West Bank towns, following three suicide attacks that killed 31 Israelis last month.

"How can it be accepted internationally that we are the only people living under occupation?" Mr Arafat said.


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