Arafat blasts Israel at Davos
Yasser Arafat accused Israel of "barbaric war"
DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has launched a blistering verbal attack on Israel but said he was still ready to work for peace in the Middle East.
Arafat made an outspoken attack on what he termed a "savage and barbaric war" that Israel had waged on the Palestinians, and accused Israel of using prohibited weapons and ammunition.
He was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Sunday where he shared a platform with Israel's Regional Cooperation Minister and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Arafat's comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he had decided to halt peacemaking contacts until after the February 6 elections.
Senior Palestinian officials had earlier suggested there could be a summit this week between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in Stockholm, Sweden.
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"Security contacts for calming the situation on the ground, stopping the violence and thwarting terrorism will continue. The Israeli government continues to stand by the peace process on the basis of insistence on Israel's vital interest," Barak's office said in a statement.
The appearance of Arafat and Peres in Davos mirrored the 1994 World Economic Forum in Switzerland when they entered the stage, symbolically, holding hands.
But there was no repeat of that situation this time with both men keen to state their country's case as well as push for peace.
Peres was clearly surprised at the vehemence of Arafat's attack. He spoke first in a more conciliatory manner but then became more outspoken in his defence of Israel's actions following Arafat's condemnation.
Peres said Israel had only acted to protect its citizens against terrorism.
Peres said the talks in Taba, which ended in a joint statement saying the two sided were closer than ever to an agreement, had been very positive, and without them "we would have been in big trouble -- a crisis."
Barak currently trails hard-line challenger Ariel Sharon, leader of the conservative Likud party, in the polls leading up to the election.
Sharon has described the Taba peace talks were a failed campaign ploy by a desperate Prime Minister.
"Ehud Barak is endangering the state of Israel to obtain a piece of paper to help him in the election," he said at a campaign stop Saturday. "Once the people of Israel find out what is in the paper and what Barak has conceded, he won't get any more votes."
Observers have said a peace agreement, or some evidence of significant progress towards a resolution, would be the only way Barak could win the election.
The hardest nut to crack is the entrenched position both sides have taken on four key issues the future of Jerusalem, the status of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the division of territory between the two sides and security.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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World Economic Forum
Israel's Prime Minister's Office
Palestinian National Authority
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