terrorist sharon rebuffed on arafat isolation

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    Sharon rebuffed on Arafat isolation
    From correspondents in Tel Aviv

    ISRAELI Prime Minister Ariel Sharon returned to Israel late today after an unsuccessful attempt to convince Britain and Norway to sever ties with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

    Mr Sharon flew in from Norway, where he failed to convince his Norwegian counterpart Kjell Magne Bondevik to isolate Mr Arafat.
    The rebuff was the second in days, after a similar response from British officials earlier in the week.

    "Arafat is a leader elected by the Palestinian people, and we have no plans to change our policy," Mr Bondevik said after Mr Sharon's visit to his hometown of Molde.

    But Norway said it would remain loyal to Mr Arafat only on certain conditions.

    "It is important that Arafat does not undermine, but rather consolidates, the position of Mahmud Abbas" in the peace process, Mr Bondevik said, referring to the Palestinian prime minister, with whom Mr Arafat has thorny relations.

    But a senior Israeli official, speaking on the plane carrying the prime minister back to Israel, said the trip allowed British and Norwegian leaders "to have a better idea of the extent of Arafat's harmful influence".

    The official said that Israel did not plan to allow Mr Arafat to move about freely, because he "causes less damage when he is held in his headquarters in Ramallah (in the West Bank), and so he will stay there".

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