Arafat Rejects Israeli Effort to Close Palestinian Offices

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has rejected any link between the Israel Defense Force redeployment in the West Bank town of Hebron and a halt to activities of the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem.

Arafat’s comments came Wednesday in response to reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a closed-door session of a parliamentary committee this week that progress on the Palestinian track rested on the closure of Palestinian offices operating in eastern Jerusalem.

Speaking at the end of a visit to Tunis, Arafat said Netanyahu had pledged to honor the accords signed by the previous Labor government and the Palestinians, adding that the Israeli premier should not add any new conditions to the agreements.

Israel views the presence of Palestinian offices as a clear breach of the Interim Agreement signed in September.

Netanyahu has said more than once in recent weeks that the delayed redeployment of Israeli troops in Hebron would not take place until those offices are closed.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces raided the offices of the Palestinian presidential security force, also known as Force 17, in eastern Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported.

Sources in the IDF central command said the office was located in an area that is under overall Israeli security control and where Palestinian security activity is prohibited by the self-rule accords.

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