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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Israeli Siege of Arafat's Compound May Soon Be Resolved

Aired April 28, 2002 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. The Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound may soon be resolved. The Palestinian leader has accepted a new U.S. proposal to end the crisis. CNN's Jerrold Kessel joins us now from Jerusalem with more on that. Hi there, Jerrold.

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka. We've had a dramatic day of diplomatic moves, and now it seems a diplomatic movement too, at least on one front, the end of one of these major standoffs between Israel and the Palestinians. The question of Yasser Arafat's besieging of the Palestinian leader in his headquarters in Ramallah on the West Bank -- this after President Bush presented to the Israeli prime minister and he, in turn, to his cabinet today in Jerusalem the American proposal for U.S. and British personnel to take guard over six Palestinians wanted for trial in Israel. They have been holed up with the Palestinian leader in his beleaguered headquarters.

Now the U.S. saying it will stand guard, or its forces, its personnel, together with the British, will take guard over those six wanted Palestinians, and this opening the way for that yes from the Israeli cabinet to that proposal from Mr. Bush. And now this evening Yasser Arafat, after hearing of the American proposal from the U.S. consul in East Jerusalem, has added his endorsement. And it could be we shall see the end of the siege.

But at the same time, Israel saying a resounding no on the question of a U.N. probe into the Jenin refugee camp. Israel said it's likely to be biased and one-sided, and it's counting on the United States to stand behind it in its battle and that continuing standoff with the United Nations -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: So, Jerrold, on the U.N. now fact-finding mission, does that mean that Israel says that it wants to hand-pick who some of those U.N. representatives would be before he, Prime Minister Sharon, would actually give approval to the fact-finding mission to take place?

KESSEL: At the moment, Israelis seem to say that all told, they do not like this mission at all. They say both the question of the composition of the team, the mandate that it's been given, the question of who they will have the right to interview and ask as witnesses on the Israeli side, all those issues now back on the table because Israel says it has not been consulted properly. And it says until it is consulted properly, until there can be agreement, there won't be a U.N. team coming here. Question is, does the U.S. back Israel on this very sensitive point?

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks very much, Jerrold Kessel from Jerusalem.

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