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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
World cautious over Bush speech
Dominique de Villepin with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
French foreign minister Villepin (l) is visiting the region
Politicians and diplomats around the world have given mixed reactions to President George Bush's speech on the Middle East.


The Palestinian people will alone decide who is their legitimate leader

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin - who is meeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on Tuesday - says the speech "converges with the aims of France and the European Union".

But he added that it "was up to the Palestinians to choose their own leaders".

Similar comments emerged from Germany, Japan, and China.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer praised Mr Bush for making a "clear commitment" to peace in the Middle East.

Mr Fischer made no direct reference to Mr Arafat but said: "The Palestinian people will alone decide who is their legitimate leader."

In Japan Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi welcomed Mr Bush's plans for elections and a provisional Palestinian state - adding that "Palestinian people should decide on their own" who their leader is.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao welcomed "the efforts by the US presidents to promote peace" - but said Mr Arafat's status as an elected leader was "an internationally recognized fact".

Legitimacy

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan praised Mr Bush's vision of a Palestinian state side by side with a secure Israel.

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat has support in the Arab world
But he too said Mr Arafat was a legitimate leader.

"President Arafat was chosen freely by the Palestinian people in elections that were widely welcomed by the international community in 1996," Mr Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said.

"He remains their leader and it will be up to them to decide through fresh elections already announced who will lead them in the future."

In the Arab world, comment has so far been muted.

Jordan's government welcomed the speech and said it was ready to work with Washington to end the Israeli-Arab conflict.

But it insisted that reforms in the Palestinian territories must be undertaken by the Palestinians.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Mr Bush's proposals deserved careful consideration and did not comment on Mr Arafat's status.

In recent weeks the leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly said the Palestinian leader should not be sidelined.


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25 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
23 Jun 02 | Middle East
21 Jun 02 | Middle East
20 Jun 02 | Middle East
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