″Helpless″ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 02.04.2002
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As Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sits "weak and helpless" in his compound, the world diplomatic community weighs in with demands on Israel.


The siege of Ramallah

Heavily armed soldiers and tanks surround Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah compound as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decides on his fate.

Inside, Arafat sits "weak and helpless," according to a German peace activist, one of close to 40 international activistis who have holed themselves up in the compound with the Palestinian leader.

"I'm observing Arafat with my own eyes and he makes a weak and helpless impression on me," Sophia Deeg, 50, told Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "It's really absurd to look at him."

The group drinks tea and eats a dwindling supply of bread. Electricity comes and goes. Everyone sleeps on the floor, Deeg said.

Contrary to reports, Deeg said there is no heavily-armed bodyguard around Arafat.

"I can only tell you what I'm seeing here, and that is for the most part simple farmer boys without weapons," she told the naitional daily.

Arafat's fate, and that of the reported 100 people still in the seven-building compound, remains unclear.

Sharon: Arafat needs to go, alone

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has declared the Palestinian leader a "world enemy" and began besieiging Ramallah on Friday. Israeli army forces have also occupied Bethlehem. In both cities, soldiers are carrying out gun battles with Palestinian gunmen.

Sharon has demanded Arafat's exile, but told reporters the 70-year-old Palestinian leader would have to leave alone with no guarantee that he would ever return. Arafat has said he would rather "die a martyr" that take Sharon's option.

Europe: Sharon and Arafat need to go

The European Union has stepped up criticism of Israel. The body's foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Spanish radio Tuesday that both Sharon and Arafat should step down.

"They (Sharon and Arafat) have faced one another on many
battlefields in recent years, and it has not escaped me that
there may be something personal between the two in this battle," Solana said.

Spain, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has called the Israeli ambassador to Madrid to demand Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian cities. The demands are in line with a United Nations security council resolution agreed on over the weekend.

The decision was made after Spain's foreign minister met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Solana. A group of European diplomats were turned away by soldiers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah early Tuesday.

US: Firm on Israel support, with an exception

The policy, as with many recently, is in disagreement with what the United States has been asking. In remarks this week, US President George W. Bush remained supportive of Israel's right to defend itself, but urged both sides to work towards peace.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated Bush's demand that Arafat do more to stop terror attacks on Israeli citizens, but insisted Arafat was Israel's only worthwhile negotiating partner.

"We think that Chairman Arafat still has a role to play. We
believe that as a leader he can speak out against the kind of
terrorist activity we have seen," Powell said in an interview
with ABC's "Good Morning America" show.

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