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Hamas spiritual leader calls on Arafat to leave Camp David summit

SHARE Hamas spiritual leader calls on Arafat to leave Camp David summit

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The spiritual leader of the militant Islamic Hamas group on Monday urged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to abandon the Camp David peace talks, saying the summit is doomed to fail Palestinians.

"I consider any agreement that might be reached at Camp David to be a failure because it is not what the Palestinians are looking for," Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told reporters.

Yassin also reiterated a pledge of continued armed struggle against Israel by Hamas, which sees formal peace with the Jewish state as a sellout.

At the summit outside Washington, both Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak face strong domestic pressures to steer clear of concessions. Key divisive issues include the eventual borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem, which both Israel and the Palestinians claim as their capital.

Yassin said any peace deal that forces Palestinians to give in on those points would not represent the Palestinian people.

"I don't expect that Arafat will do so because he knows it would be the end of him politically," said Yassin.

Also Monday, Avraham Burg, the speaker of Israel's parliament, spoke with Barak by phone.

Burg said Barak was not hopeful that the negotiating teams would reach an agreement in the next two days. On Wednesday, President Clinton is scheduled to leave Camp David for a summit of industrialized powers in Japan.

"He (Barak) is not optimistic," Burg told Israel radio, "He said he wants to reach an agreement but that we are not there yet."

Even as Barak negotiates at Camp David, he remains plagued by political problems back home. On Sunday, at least 100,000 right-wing protesters, most of them West Bank settlers, massed at a Tel Aviv square to protest broad concessions to the Palestinians.

Israel's parliament also is scheduled Monday to hear two motions of no-confidence in Barak's government, submitted by far-right parties opposed to the summit. The motions are not expected to pass.

Meanwhile, Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling for Arafat not to give in to Israel.

In the West Bank town of Jenin, some 300 Palestinian activists from Arafat's Fatah faction marched through the streets, calling for a return of Palestinian refugees to the homes inside Israel that they fled or were driven from in 1948.

Many of the demonstrators fired shots in the air and a 17-year-old from a nearby refugee camp burned an Israeli flag.

In the Gaza Strip, 500 refugees from the Nusseirat camp also rallied for the right of Palestinians to return to their original homes in Israel.