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Wednesday, August 4, 1999 Published at 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK

World: Middle East

Arafat 'son of 60,000 whores'

Yasser Arafat's moves to make peace with Israel have angered Syria

The Syrian defence minister has triggered a diplomatic row with the Palestinian Authority by describing its leader Yasser Arafat as the "son of 60,000 whores".

General Mustafa Tlass, who is known for his colourful language, launched an outspoken attack on Mr Arafat in a speech on Monday.

Middle East
"Son of 60,000 whores, you should have told the White House that Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian state, but instead you stayed as quiet as a mouse and did not dare say a single word in favour of Palestine or Jerusalem," he said.

He compared Mr Arafat unfavourably to a stripper while attacking him for making one concession after another since the signing of the Oslo peace accord with Israel in 1993.

"But the difference between Yasser Arafat and the striptease dancer is that whenever the dancer takes off layers of her clothes she reveals her beauty while every time Yasser Arafat takes off his clothes he looks uglier," he added.

Palestine calls for minister to be sacked

Palestinian officials have called for General Tlass to be sacked.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says his comments reflect Syria's long-standing criticism of Mr Arafat's peace deal with the Israelis, although it is highly unusual for a senior official to issue such a strongly-worded personal attack.

The incident is likely to further sour relations between Syria and the Palestinians, at a time when both are preparing for a new round of peace talks with Israel.

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