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Arafat stays away from Rabin funeral

By
MICHELE GERSHBERG

JERUSALEM, Nov. 6 -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat stayed away from the funeral of his fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, apparently at the request of Israel's government. 'Arafat is not coming to Jerusalem because it is too sensitive for Israelis who are now grieving over the death of their prime minister,' said government spokesman Uri Dromi. 'Arafat agrees with this.' Arafat requested to participate, but did not receive permission, sources at the Foreign Ministry said. Arafat's spokesman, Marwan Kanafani, told reporters in Gaza City the absence was due to 'national and security concerns.' Vilified for years by successive Israeli governments as a 'terrorist,' Arafat and Rabin managed to turn a new page in Middle East history when they signed the Oslo Accord and shook hands on the White House lawn two years ago. Arafat, Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for their peace-making efforts. Peres was appointed acting prime minister following Rabin's assassination Saturday night. Many Israelis say Arafat has not done enough to quash attacks by radical Islamic fundamentalist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who have carried out a string of deadly suicide bombings since the Oslo Accord that have killed over 80 people and wounded hundreds more. Arafat sent condolences to Peres and Israeli President Ezer Weizman Monday, expressing sorrow and denouncing the murder. 'The bullets that assassinated Rabin were also aimed at killing the peace process and democracy within Israeli Society,' a Palestinian Information Ministry statement said.

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In his stead, Arafat's Palestinian Authority sent a delegation of senior ministers to the funeral. The group included Development Minister Nabil Shaath, Planning Minister Ahmed Qurei, Minister without portfolio Faisal Husseini and senior peace negotiator Jamil Tarifi. After paying his respects to Weizman, Shaath told Israel television that Arafat recognized 'the difficult security problems that Israel has on its hands, but this did not deter him from sending his condolences to the Israeli government.' 'We have all the trust in Mr. Peres, and we will give him our full support, and hope that the legacy of Mr. Rabin and the fine moments before his death are consecrated,' Shaath said. He added that Palestinian leaders believed that 'both of us are going to go through the peace process without going back.'

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