Forwarded by John Worrell Monday March 24 1997

PLO Rejects Israeli Security Demands

JERUSALEM (Reuter) - The Palestinian Authority Monday rejected Israel's demand it crack down on Muslim militants and said it had suspended security ties with the Jewish state amid Israeli fears of more suicide bombings.

Hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank and soldiers shot and wounded an Arab at a Gaza Strip roadblock on the fifth straight day of violence.

Israeli security forces remained on alert for attacks by Palestinian militants three days after a suicide bomber killed three women in a Tel Aviv cafe.

Israel demanded on Sunday that the PLO rein in militants following Friday's blast claimed by the Islamist group Hamas.

"We will not accept or deal with the Israeli conditions and will treat them as if we didn't hear them," Palestinian Preventive Security chief in the Gaza Strip Mohammad Dahlan told a news conference.

Israel also demanded the Palestinian Authority increase security cooperation, which Israel's military intelligence chief said Palestinians had conditioned on a change in Israeli settlement policy.

"We stopped both security activities and intelligence cooperation as a result of the Israeli violations of the agreement by continuing to establish settlements," Dahlan said.

Hamas has threatened more suicide bombings if Israel presses ahead with the construction, begun last week, of a Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem, which the PLO wants as capital of a future Palestinian state.

Hamas said the Middle East peace process was dying and it was time to deliver the final blow.

"We in the Islamic Resistance, Hamas, call upon our people and all Islamic, Palestinian, and Arab forces to deliver the mercy bullet to the dying peace process, and to unite efforts in resisting the criminal plots of the enemy," Hamas said in a statement faxed to an international news agency in Beirut.

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy criticized Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for trotting the globe while peace moves remained mired in crisis.

"Arafat must understand that the problems won't be solved in international arenas. He must be here to decide which path he takes," Levy told Israel Radio as Arafat arrived in Sri Lanka on the fourth day of a nine-day tour.

Arafat was in Islamabad on Sunday where a one-day summit of the 54-member Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned "Israel's persistence in its settlement expansionist policies" in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories.

He visited Egypt and Oman before Pakistan and was due to travel to South Africa and Morocco before returning home.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, elected last May promising more security for Israelis, has blamed Arafat for giving Islamic militants a "green light" to launch attacks against the Jewish state. Arafat denies the charge.

Arafat, speaking in Sri Lanka on Monday, blamed Israel for violating peace agreements and called on the international community "to protect the peace of the brave."

He told a public meeting: "We talk about peace in spite of tragedies because we know the alternative is a real disaster in the Middle East, not only for us but for the whole area."

France urged Israel to stick to the Oslo peace accords signed with the Palestinians in 1993, saying this was the only way of ending violence.

"It is our conviction that the Palestinian question must be rapidly given a fair and lasting solution. That must be achieved through the full implementation of the Oslo accords," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt told reporters in Paris.

In Cairo, thousands of Egyptian students chanted anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans in a demonstration against Israel's policies in Jerusalem.

Clashes erupted in an Israeli-controlled enclave in Bethlehem where hundreds of Palestinians threw gasoline bombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers guarding the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel.

The troops responded with rubber bullets and teargas. No serious injuries were reported.

Similar clashes also erupted in Hebron, site of fierce confrontations at the weekend, witnesses said.

In the southern Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a Palestinian who the army said tried to run a military roadblock. A Palestinian police official accused the soldiers of opening fire too quickly and said the man, riding a cart, had been shot twice in the back.