PARIS 11 Nov. (IPS) The Islamic Republic of Iran joined the international community offering its condolences to the Palestinian people Thursday over the death of Yasser Arafat and appealed to them to remain unified in the face of "Zionist aggression" and on the Muslim world to emulate the Islamic Republic in supporting the Palestinian resistance against the “usurpers”.
The Palestinian leader died in the early hours of Thursday at Percy military hospital on the outskirts of Paris where he had been in a coma since 29 October following his urgent transfer to France from the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he was living in a half destroyed office and residence for the past three years, prisoner of the Israelis.
The Palestinian leader died in the early hours of Thursday at Percy military hospital on the outskirts of Paris.
"Mr Arafat's death is a sad event and we send our condolences to the Palestinian people", Foreign Affairs Ministry’s senior spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, quoted by the official news agency IRNA, hours after the official announcement of the death of Mr. Arafat.
"Doubtless, his eminent role over near half a century is not concealed to any fair-minded and honest person; his name is now tied to Palestine", said an official statement from the Iranian government, adding that it received the news about Arafat’s death with “great sadness”.
The statement said Arafat’s demise had ushered in “a new chapter in the legitimate struggles of the oppressed Palestinian people”, urging the “young Palestinian leaders to uphold this grave responsibility that now lies on their shoulders”.
Though the statement did not name the so-called “new, young Palestinian leaders”, but observers said it certainly refers to the new leaders of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad of Palestine and the Martyrs of al Aqsa, the military branch of Fattah, the group led by Arafat himself, all three radical organisations opposed to peace with Israel and that have wowed to continue the struggle against the Jewish State.
"The lofty aspirations of a nation as well as its identity do not die with the demise of its leaders; rather, their death or martyrdom enormously helps consolidate those ideals", the statement further said, calling for "the total end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, the return of refugees and the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital".
Relations were cold between Iran and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
"Mr Arafat had fought a long struggle for the goals of the Palestinian people. From a young age he fought the Zionist regime, and recently he was under tremendous pressure from Israel and he endured this pressure"
"We sympathise with the Palestinian people. But what is important now is that the Palestinian people maintain their unity and integrity and do not allow the Zionist regime to exploit the situation and continue its policy of aggression", Mr. Asefi told the Arabic television channel “al Alam”, run the Iranian Radio and Television.
"The Zionist regime, following Yasser Arafat’s demise, is trying to exploit the situation as much as possible in line with its continued policy of aggression", he said.
Relations were cold between Iran and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority and reached the lowest point after Mr. Arafat shook hands with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzahak Rabin and former US President Bill Clinton in Washington on 13 September 1993.
Iran’s former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the Iranian leaders who had accused Mr. Arafat of “selling to the Zionists and Americans the cause of the Palestinian people” also voiced his sorrow and regret over the death, saying “although Abu Ammar (Arafat’s nom de guerre) did not achieve his long-life aspirations, “it is hoped that the Palestinian parties... would put aside their differences and create a united front to lead the resistant Palestinian people on the difficult road to saving their holy land".
According to IRNA, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Kharrazi will represent Iran’s delegation at the official funeral ceremony that is to be held Friday in Cairo.
As observed in the Iranian statement, the death of the legendary Palestinian leader would open a new chapter in the bloody history of the Middle East and Arabs-Palestinians and Israel conflict.
Iranian analysts of the region said much would depend on how both the new Palestinian leadership and Israelis could come together making he best of the tragic situation.
Immediately after the announce of the death, the Palestinian national Assembly named Abou Mazen as the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the umbrella structures made of more than 12 different Palestinian groups and organisation, with the Fattah, now being led by Mr. Farouq Qoddoumi, as the largest and most important of them.
While Abou Ala would keep his job as Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament replaces temporarily the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, the three posts of leadership of the PA, Fattah and PLO being monopolised by Abou Ammar.
A fresh outbreak of violenc, as promised by radical Palestinian organisations would be responded immediately by more repression from Israel, thus ruining hopes for renewal of the dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis, they noted.
The major problem, they added, is that not only any of the new Palestinian leaders is capable of harnessing angry mobs, but some of them are even accused of being Israeli’s and American’s puppets and to show their independence, they have to be firm with the Israelis.
In their view, the only way of getting dialogue started is a “very active” participation from the international community, mainly from the Quartet made of the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations, offering the two sides possibilities and means of reviving the famous “Road Map” that was almost killed by the Israelis after he victory of Ariel Sharon in the last Israeli elections. ENDS ARAFAT 111104