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E.U. Agreement Reached in Nativity Standoff

Aired May 9, 2002 - 13:38   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, just to reiterate the news we are getting out of Brussels, apparently the European Union has reached some sort of deal to end the standoff. The Church of Nativity essentially sending 13 Palestinian gunmen to some country that hasn't been named, at least publicly anyway. Now we caution you, we have heard word about deals being struck for the past several days. None has panned out just yet.

Robin Oakley tracking this story across the seas in London, England now.

What are we hearing, Robin. Good evening to you in London.

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bill.

Well, we hear from sources close to Javier Solana, the EU's international relations chief, that a deal has been done over the 13 activists whose future really is the key to the whole ending of the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Originally, it has been suggested that the 13 would go to Italy, then Italy wasn't willing to take them, and I believe, involved in intense diplomacy, telephone diplomacy through today talk together United States authorities, to Shimon Peres, and to various European capitals, trying to get a deal, sorting out the future of these 13 among different European nations, and possibly some European nations outside the European Union as well.

And my understanding is a deal has been done that Mr. Solana is content he's got a deal, and that the 13 will be disbursed among European Union countries, which will be the key in ending the siege of the Church of the Nativity and release of all 123 Palestinians inside there, some of whom will go back to the Gaza Strip, some of whom will go into prison.

But this has been the key to the whole deal, the future of these 13 activists on Israel's most wanted list, and there is a deal now done, but we're not going to get any details, I understand, for the next few hours.

HEMMER: Robin, I may have to interrupt you in this next answer here. President Bush made some comments a short time ago at the White House. But before we get to that, you mentioned countries as a possibility. It's possible then through what you are talking about or hearing about that it could be a number of countries that take the 13. Is that an accurate statement, an accurate read?

OAKLEY: I think, Bill, almost certainly from what I have been hearing, the discussions have certainly involved more than one country. I think we may well find that Italy, which refused to take all 13, will take some on the basis that other countries are taking others of the 13.

But intense activity has been going on all day. Obviously Some countries are reluctant to upset their domestic electorates by taking these activists. Others would see a political advantage in doing so. Many have been anxious for the European Union to play a more effective part in the search for peace in the Middle East.

HEMMER: Robin, thank you. I apologize about the interruption indeed.

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