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IN THE NEWS - Yasser Arafat Buried - 2004-11-12

Broadcast: November 13, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

Yasser Arafat was buried Friday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on the grounds of the Muqata. That is the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority which Mister Arafat led as president.

Officials wanted to keep the area clear, but tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered. Palestinian guards fired shots into the air in an effort to keep order after a helicopter brought the body. Some mourners waved Palestinian flags and pictures of the man they also knew by his war name, Abu Ammar.

Earlier in the day, Egypt held a private military funeral in Cairo. The presidents of Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Indonesia were among the foreign leaders who attended. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and American Assistant Secretary of State William Burns were also there. Mister Arafat died early Thursday at a French military hospital near Paris. He was seventy-five years old.

Yasser Arafat spent forty years leading the efforts for a Palestinian nation. Some people will remember him as a terrorist. Israel had restricted him to the Muqata since December of two thousand one, until he became sick recently. Israel held him responsible for many bombings and other attacks on civilians. But others will see him as a freedom fighter who made the world think about the Palestinians.

Yet he was not always very popular. There was criticism of dishonesty in the Palestinian Authority. And, now, Palestinians must find all the money that he put into banks around the world.

They will also need to find a new leader. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is taking Mister Arafat’s duties with the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, the former prime minister, was named to head the Palestine Liberation Organization. Farouk Kaddoumi will lead Fatah, Mister Arafat's movement within the P.L.O.

And Rauhi Fattouh, the parliament speaker, is to serve as temporary president for sixty days. After that, Palestinian law calls for elections for a new president.

Yasser Arafat was born in Cairo in August of nineteen twenty-nine. As a teenager, he supplied weapons to Palestinians fighting Jews and British troops in the British territory of Palestine.

Yet, in nineteen ninety-four, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize for a peace agreement with Israel. Then, in two thousand, there was an American-negotiated plan to exchange land for peace. Israel accepted; Mister Arafat did not. In September of two thousand, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza began new violence that continues today.

On Friday, President Bush said he believes there is “a great chance” to establish a Palestinian state. He said he will work for that goal during his next four years. He spoke during a news conference in Washington with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mister Blair wants to hold an international conference. With Yasser Arafat gone, he says it is important to renew the search for what he called a "genuine, lasting and just peace in the Middle East."

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.