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World - Middle East

Diplomatic flap follows Hillary Clinton to Jordan

November 12, 1999
Web posted at: 10:47 p.m. EST (0347 GMT)

In this story:

Land transfer set for Monday

Palestinians apologize for 'any embarrassment'


From staff and wire reports

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- A diplomatic flap, sparked by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's wife, continues to dog U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during her Mideast trip.

On Friday, Clinton dismissed as "baseless" Suha Arafat's remarks that Israel had used gas and chemicals to poison Palestinians.

"Everyone who supports this effort toward resolving outstanding issues among the parties should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and baseless accusations," Clinton said while visiting Jordan's tourist city of Petra.

VideoJerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers reports on the diplomatic flap raised during Hillary Rodham Clinton's trip to the Middle East
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Senator Hillary Clinton?

Mideast peace


Land transfer set for Monday

Clinton suggested that Arafat's remarks could damage the final stretch of the Mideast peace talks. Israel is due to hand over another 5 percent of West Bank land to Palestinian control on Monday.

"I will go anywhere any time I can to promote the peace process," Clinton said.

The Palestinians, who control approximately 30 percent of the West Bank, expect to control 40 percent of the region next year.

Clinton said she waited a day to respond so she could receive a precise translation of Arafat's remarks.

On Thursday in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Arafat accused Israel, while Clinton was in the audience, of "consistently and daily using poisonous gas against Palestinians for the past years."

clinton and arafat
Arafat's remarks while Clinton was in the audience sparked outrage in Israel and dismay in the United States  

This, she alleged, increased cancer rates among Palestinian women and children. Arafat also accused Israel of contaminating 80 percent of Palestinian water supplies. Her remarks sparked outrage in Israel and dismay in the United States.

Clinton drew fire from New York City's Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, widely regarded as a prospective opponent if the first lady decides to seek the Democratic nomination next year for the U.S. Senate from New York. Giuliani scolded Clinton for not speaking up immediately.

Palestinians apologize for 'any embarrassment'

The Palestinians apologized Friday, saying Arafat had not intended to embarrass the first lady, and that she got her words mixed up.

One senior Palestinian official, who requested anonymity, said an irate U.S. President Bill Clinton demanded an apology.

Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said there had been no intention to embarrass the first lady, "and we are very sorry if there was any embarrassment caused.

"Of course, Mrs. Arafat did not mean poison gas, but tear gas," Erekat told Reuters. "We agreed with President Clinton that the Palestinians and Israelis must resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiations."

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.

Hillary Clinton decries 'inflammatory' Mideast rhetoric
November 11, 1999
New controversies arise in Mideast peace process
November 11, 1999
Political baggage shadows Hillary Clinton in Israel
November 10, 1999
Inside Politics: First Lady Hillary Clinton Makes Trip to Israel
November 10, 1999
First lady appears in ad for N.Y. Democratic Party
November 9, 1999
First lady looking forward to New York residency
November 3, 1999

Israel's Institutions of Government
Office of the Israeli Prime Minister
The Middle East Network Information Center
Palestinian National Authority
CIA World Factbook 1999: Israel
  • CIA World Factbook 1999: West Bank
  • CIA World Factbook 1999: Gaza Strip

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