Sunday, Sep. 22, 2002

After call from Arafat Malaysian urges West to intervene


KUALA LUMPUR Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he planned to ask Western leaders to intervene in Israel's assault on the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after receiving a telephone call from Arafat, media reports said Sunday.
Mahathir also warned against harming Arafat, saying more suicide bombings would occur if Arafat was killed in the attack, national news agency Bernama reported.
Israeli troops, tanks and bulldozers on Thursday began pulverizing the buildings in Arafat's once-sprawling Ramallah headquarters, hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed six people in Tel Aviv.
Mahathir, speaking to Malaysian reporters Saturday during a stopover in London en route to a meeting of European Union and Asian leaders in Copenhagen, said Arafat had telephoned him from his headquarters Friday to inform him of the situation there.
Israel has said it does not intend to harm Arafat. But the assault has left Arafat at his weakest since he returned from exile in 1994 to take the helm of the Palestinian Authority.
Mahathir, considered a moderate and influential Muslim voice, said he would write to Western government leaders to seek their intervention in the standoff at Arafat's office building.
"This is a most extraordinary situation," Mahathir said.
"I know they are doing this to him because of the recent bomb explosion by suicide bombers, (but) even without Arafat, these operations will continue, as they do not take their cue from him."