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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Yasser Arafat's successor?
Mohammed Dahlan
Yasser Arafat's successor?

Yasser Arafat sacked the head of his police forces as part of reforms to the national security apparatus - but to many his actions look increasingly futile.

If George Bush has his way Yasser Arafat has to go as leader of the Palestinains. So is there anyone the Americans would like to take his place?

One of the names most often mentioned is Mohammed Dahlan, the former Head of Security in Gaza. He is one of those who has been calling for reform and an end to corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

The man himself was in London for a few days and gave his only television interview to Newsnight.

Martha Kearney began by asking him what everyone wants to know - was he going to stand against Yasser Arafat in the presidential election?


MOHAMMED DAHLAN
(Former Head of Security, Gaza) (TRANSLATION):
Certainly not, for several reasons. Firstly, Chairman Arafat is a father and a friend to me, and he is the elected leader of the Palestinian people. Secondly and specially, because this is a condition advanced by Sharon and Bush. They wouldn't deal with Chairman Arafat even if he was elected in the forthcoming elections. This is a new and unrealistic concept of democracy because the Palestinian people only, have the right to change their leadership and choose whoever deserves their trust.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Are you saying that George Bush's speech is strengthened support for Yasser Arafat and if President Bush hadn't intervened perhaps you might have stood against him?

MOHAMMED DAHLAN
(TRANSLATION):
This is not a question of any relevance for the time being, either concerning me or any other Palestinian, who would like to stand in any election against Chairman Arafat. This is going to be discussed by the Palestinian leadership. It couldn't be discussed while tanks are encircling our homes and destroying our towns and killing our sons. We want to reach an agreement with the Israelis but this speech came at the wrong time and had the wrong message, and will enflame violence between us and the Israelis.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
If President Bush were to withdraw this idea of not negotiating with Chairman Arafat, would you consider standing against him in those circumstances?

MOHAMMED DAHLAN:
(TRANSLATION):
Certainly no people under occupation would change their leadership. No country has the right to impose such a change on any other nation. This is an internal Palestinian matter, and as long as we are under the menace of Sharon and his tanks, it will never been discussed. We are the only nation in the world still living under the occupation in the 21st century.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Is it a problem for you in terms of your political support, the fact that you do seem to have the backing of the Americans?

MOHAMMED DAHLAN:
(TRANSLATION):
I believe the American administration has caused the Palestinian people and me personally a lot of harm since they won the last presidential election. I am not looking for America's support, I am looking for support for the Palestinian people, who are suffering terribly in refugee camps and have been uprooted from their homeland, many of whom are scattered outside Palestine.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
When it comes to your past role as the Head of Security in Gaza, some questions have been raised. For four years you were successful in stopping suicide bombers then it all began again. Some people say you turned a blind eye, may even be complicit in some form of terrorism yourself?

MOHAMMED DAHLAN:
(TRANSLATION):
We have carried out all our commitments in the agreements with Israel. When there was hope for peace and the Palestinians were hoping to gain their independence through peaceful means. But it is illogical that Israel demands that President Arafat carries out these commitments while Israel is destroying all our security infrastructures and killing our officers and soldiers.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
But perhaps the security in Gaza might have been helped if you had carried out some of the instructions from Chairman Arafat, and he wanted you to arrest people from Islamic Jihad, from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and to arrest Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, why didn't you carry out Chairman Arafat's orders?

MOHAMMED DAHLAN:
(TRANSLATION):
No, No, Chairman Arafat lives under very, very hard political conditions under the Israeli siege, and we have convinced him that this situation could lead us to a civil war. Consequently we would not carry this out before the Israelis withdraw from the occupied land. If Israel withdraws, we will give them peace and security.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
From the outside, the prospects for peace look extremely bleak, if you are saying that peace can't be achieved while Ariel Sharon is in power, and the Americans are saying they are not going to deal with Arafat, you seem to be saying there is no way out of this stalemate?

MOHAMMED DAHLAN
(TRANSLATION):
I believe that the speech made by President Bush has killed the last hope in reaching peace and ending the suffering of the Palestinian people. The American administration should have forced Sharon several months ago to withdraw from Zone A, so the Palestinian authority could carry out its commitments, thus establishing peace.

MARTHA KEARNEY:
Mohammed Dahlan, Thank you very much

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

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 ON THIS STORY
Mohammed Dahlan, former Head of Security in Gaza
"Chairman Arafat is a father and a friend"

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02 Jul 02 | Middle East
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