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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Arabs urge UN action on Arafat
Palestinian youths with portraits of Yasser Arafat
Arafat supporters have vowed to stay as human shields
Arab and non-aligned nations have asked the United Nations Security Council to stop Israel from carrying out its threat to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Council met in emergency session - and described the Israeli decision as "unhelpful".

But it did not formally discuss a draft resolution circulated by Palestinian UN envoy Nasser al-Kidwa.

It will reconvene on Monday to hear a report from the UN envoy for the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, followed by a debate open to all UN members.

The UN moves come amid mounting international criticism of the Israeli decision in principle which was taken on Thursday night in response to two suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which killed 15 people.

The United States has said expelling Mr Arafat would be unhelpful, while Russia and the European Union - co-sponsors of the roadmap peace plan - said such a move would be a grave and terrible mistake.

But the Palestinian leader appears to be enjoying the centre-stage he has been catapulted into after more than a year in isolation, reports the BBC's Richard Miron from outside Mr Arafat's battered headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

For the second night running, he emerged to greet his supporters on Friday evening saying: "To Jerusalem we are going as martyrs in the millions."

"With our blood and souls we will redeem you, Abu Ammar," the crowd chanted, using Mr Arafat's nom de guerre.

He answered: "With our blood and souls, we will redeem you, Palestine."

Caution

"Council members expressed the view that the removal of Mr Arafat would be unhelpful and should not be implemented," said a statement read to reporters by UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current Council president.

But the Palestinian draft resolution was not tabled at the Council's closed-door session.

The document demands that "Israel, the occupying power, desist from any act of deportation and to cease any threat to the safety of the elected president of the Palestinian Authority".

With our blood and souls, we will redeem you, Palestine
Yasser Arafat

"I think we have broad support. Most Council members want quick action, so we will see," the Palestinian envoy told reporters.

Arab countries are said to be preferring an early vote.

The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem says political sources in Israel say they do not expect Israel to carry out its threat immediately.

But Mr Arafat's Fatah movement has urged Palestinians to mount a round-the-clock guard at the headquarters to block any Israeli moves to remove Mr Arafat forcibly.

Senior Palestinian officials have warned Israel not to implement its decision, describing the possible consequences as catastrophic.

Palestinians rally at Yasser Arafat's compound

The Palestinian Prime Minister-designate, Ahmed Qurei, has said he is suspending his bid to form a new government, saying that Israel's decision threatened the stability of the entire region.

Previously, Israel had regarded Mr Arafat as irrelevant and since December 2001 the Israeli army has largely confined him to his compound in Ramallah.

Israeli media reported several months ago that commandos have been training to grab Mr Arafat at his compound, bundle him onto a helicopter and fly him away, possibly to North Africa.

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying: "It was taken into consideration that there would be armed resistance, so preparations have been made to silence the opposition - but there will be a fight."


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