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Israel Backing Off Threat To Harm Arafat - 2004-04-25


The Israeli government appears to be backing off its threat to harm Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, following criticism from the Bush Administration.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and two other ministers said (Sunday) no decision has yet been made to kill Mr. Arafat or to send him into exile.

The ministers described the threat by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a general warning. As Mr. Olmert put it, nothing will happen today, tomorrow or this week.

The statements follow Mr. Sharon's warning, Friday, that he was no longer bound by a promise to the U.S. government not to harm Mr. Arafat.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell strongly criticized Mr. Sharon's statement. He said President Bush had stated his opposition to any Israeli action against Mr. Arafat.

Mr. Arafat said Saturday he is not afraid to die.

Meanwhile the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant Palestinian group, has claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting, late Sunday, of an Israeli man who was traveling in a car -- near the West Bank city of Hebron. At least two more Israelis were wounded in the attack.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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