Israel says Arafat funded terrorism

Claims other Palestinians implicated PLO chief


JERUSALEM - After releasing Yasser Arafat before dawn from a monthlong siege, the Israeli government declared late last night that other Palestinian leaders under Israeli interrogation had implicated him in financing terrorist attacks.

While the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon released a three-page statement outlining its charges, it did not describe a link between Arafat and any particular attack or produce additional documents to back up its accusations. But it said the interrogations supported its previous assertions that Arafat had approved money for operatives "with the knowledge that it would be used to finance terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians."

Sharon has repeatedly said that no peace would be possible with Arafat, and the release of the announcement, on the heels of Arafat's news release, suggested that the government was in no hurry to revise that view as the Bush administration and the government of Saudi Arabia have stepped up their efforts to end the conflict here.

Sharon's office did not provide transcripts of the interrogations or describe in what conditions the prisoners, who include Marwan Barghouti, a senior leader of Arafat's Fatah organization, are being held. An official in the prime minister's office said that security officials could not provide further details last night.

Some of the men referred to as sources have in the past denied that Arafat, the Palestinian leader, had a role in preparing attacks. Other Palestinian officials have also denied any such role for Arafat, and they have accused Israel of forging documents or using information out of context.

In its statement, the Israeli government mocked claims that Arafat had tried to crack down on Palestinian violence, saying he had done "everything possible" - but in the realm of "terrorism promotion" rather than "terrorism prevention."

The Israeli government said that it had also learned that explosives used in attacks had come from the weapons depots of the Palestinian Authority, which by treaty has limited power to govern Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

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