ARAFAT IN CHRISTMAS ROW
Israel has announced it will bar Yasser Arafat from making his Christmas pilgrimage to Bethlehem for the second year running.
The Palestinian president said he would try to attend Christmas Eve mass in Bethlehem after Israel had prevented him from doing so last year, accusing him of failing to do enough to stop militant violence.
But Raanan Gissin, a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said: "He's going to stay put."
Until last year, Arafat, a Muslim, had celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem - revered as the birthplace of Jesus - every year since it was turned over to Palestinian rule in 1995.
Gissin said Arafat would be barred from Bethlehem again because the Palestinian leader had still not done enough to "halt terror" against Israelis.
Arafat, a longtime symbol of Palestinian nationalism, has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Bethlehem is among the West Bank cities and towns reoccupied by Israeli forces following a wave of suicide bombings by Palestinian militants.
Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat quickly condemned the Israeli move.
"This is a crude attempt to undermine a religious occasion and to prevent the Palestinian president from sharing Christmas with his people," he said.
Last Updated: 06:17 UK, Monday December 09, 2002