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Sunday, December 13, 1998 Published at 21:23 GMT

World: Middle East

Islamic leader held over Clinton threat

Militants accuse Yasser Arafat of kowtowing to the US

The head of the Islamic Jihad opposition group has been arrested by Palestinian police after saying he would not hesitate to kill US President Bill Clinton if he had the chance.

Abdullah Shami made the threat as violence continued across the West Bank ahead of Mr Clinton's vist to the Gaza strip on Monday.

[ image: Abdullah Shami: ''I wouldn't hesitate to kill him'']
Abdullah Shami: ''I wouldn't hesitate to kill him''
Mr Shami said if it was not for the huge security around Mr Clinton, he would kill the president.

However, Mr Shami said he knew of no plans to attack Mr Clinton who is in the Middle East to try and salvage the Wye River peace accord.

"I don't know of anybody in Gaza who is thinking of killing Clinton now," he told Spanish TV station Antenna 3.

"But if the Wye River agreement involves a change in the Palestinian position to the worse, and somebody does kill him, I will be happy.''

Asked if he would kill Mr Clinton, he said: "If I could I would, with every method I can muster. I would not hesitate. Clinton is coming with 1,200 security men."

Mr Shami was detained after leaving a Gaza City school where he teaches, according to a Palestinian police official.

Mr Clinton's visit to the Gaza strip, the first by a US president, has angered many Israelis who see it as endorsing Palestinian aspirations to statehood.

But Mr Shami said: "[Mr Clinton] can't suddenly turn into a friend and a hero. He will always remain as one of the biggest enemies of the Palestinian people".


Meanwhile, new violence erupted in the West Bank despite the Palestinian Authority's efforts to calm the situation ahead of Mr Clinton's visit.

Palestinians threw stones at Israeli troops in several towns.

Two American flags were burned at a rally attended by 2,000 supporters of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Earlier, a Palestinian girl was arrested after knifing a young Israeli woman.

She reportedly said the attack was timed to coincide with Mr Clinton's visit.

Four Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured in the West Bank this week in violence sparked by Israel's refusal to release Palestinian prisoners jailed for politically motivated crimes.

But Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu repeated on Sunday that he would not release "terrorists with blood on their hands".

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