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American, British Monitors to Take Custody of Six Palestinians in Arafat's Compound

Aired April 28, 2002 - 15:17   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: Good afternoon, I am Fredricka Whitfield at CNN Center in Atlanta. Now more on that breaking story that we've been following for you where Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has agreed to a U.S. proposal that would allow U.S. and British monitors to supervise six Palestinians who have been wanted by Israel. Four, or at least five of those Palestinian suspects have been holed up in the compound with Yasser Arafat since that siege began.

On the phone now from Jericho joining us is Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. Mr. Erakat, what more can you tell us about the agreement that Mr. Arafat has made?

SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well, Fredricka, I would like to read you the official communique issued by President Arafat just five minutes ago. "President Yasser Arafat declares his acceptance of the American-British plan, and he expects the arrival of American and British experts tomorrow to work out and conclude technical details of this plan as soon as possible. We hope that these experts will work with our team as of tomorrow afternoon, and President Arafat has assigned a team to follow-up this matter in all its aspects. Also, President Arafat agreed with both American and British sides to exert -- continue exerting every possible effort to end the siege and the catastrophic situation inside the Nativity Church." End of statement.

And in this manner, Fredricka, I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who played a vital role in reaching this plan.

WHITFIELD: Mr. Erakat, is it your understanding as well that along with this agreement it means that there will be an immediate withdrawal from Israeli troops?

There was no mention of that in the statement that you've read, but is it your understanding that that would take place, consequently?

ERAKAT: Well, my understanding that the two things that are holding the Israelis to comply with the resolution 1402 and to withdraw genuinely this time is the conclusion of this agreement. And I am sure that with this, the Israelis will have no longer any pretext, and we hope to see a full Israeli withdrawal as soon as this agreement is concluded. WHITFIELD: OK. Quickly, Mr. Erakat, I mentioned that five of the Palestinian suspects have been in the compound, but I am also reading that at least four of those suspects are being linked, according to Israeli sources, to the assassination of the tourism minister of Israel. Is that your understanding?

ERAKAT: Yes, Fredricka, there are four there who have been tried and sentences passed. And I am telling you that all the details will be worked out beginning tomorrow with the American and British experts.

WHITFIELD: OK. So as early as tomorrow those monitors may be arriving to begin any supervision of the Palestinian suspects?

ERAKAT: No, I think the experts will arrive to conclude the work plan that will allow these monitors to arrive.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you very much, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat for joining us on the telephone from Jericho.

And of course, we'll be following this story and bring you any new information as we get it. I am Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

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