Foreign Digest

FOREIGN DIGEST

April 24, 2004

Sharon says he told Bush of changed stance on Arafat

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is fighting to shore up support among hard-liners in his Likud Party, said yesterday he told President Bush during their White House meeting last week that he no longer feels bound by an earlier pledge not to harm Yasser Arafat.

Sharon's threat against the Palestinian leader was by no means new, but his remarks appeared an effort to imply the tacit approval of the American administration for any action that Israel takes against the Palestinian leader - including assassination. Israel has openly assassinated top Palestinian leaders, including two recent strikes on leaders of Hamas.

Sharon said he told Bush: "I understand the problems, but I am free of this commitment." He refused to say what Bush said in response. Bush administration officials confirmed that the Israeli prime minister told the president of the change, but they insisted that the administration still opposes the assassination of Arafat.

5 wanted militants killed in fight, Saudi officials say

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - An overnight gun battle between Saudi security services and a small enclave of the country's most-wanted militants that erupted in Jidda ended with five suspects dead, including one who blew himself up, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

Four of those killed were on the list of the 26 most-wanted terrorists released last December, the ministry said. The fifth was not identified.

The 12-hour firefight, involving a car chase through residential neighborhoods, thwarted an attack on the Red Sea port of Jidda, according to the official Saudi television and the Saudi Press Agency, both quoting an Interior Ministry statement. The gunfight started a day after a suicide attack in the capital, Riyadh, killed five people.

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