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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Nasir al-Qidwa

Aired June 25, 2003 - 20:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago we spoke with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Let's get the other side of the story now in the Middle East crisis. I'm joined now by Dr. Nasir al- Qidwa. He is the Palestinian observer to the United Nations. He also happens to be Yasser Arafat's nephew. Good evening.
NASIR AL-QIDWA, PALESTINIAN OBSERVER TO U.N.: Good evening.

ZAHN: I don't know whether you heard what the former prime minister just had to say but he said basically if your uncle had accepted the deal that President Clinton offered him there would probably be a Palestinian state today.

AL-QIDWA: Well, my leader you mean because my personal relationship has nothing to do with my business. But anyway, I think Mr. Barak basically has never been able to recover his failure because the two of them failed to reach a settlement and it's only natural for Mr. Barak to try to deflect responsibility and put the whole burden on Mr. Arafat.

ZAHN: But hasn't Mr. Arafat conceded that he regrets that he did not go through wit that deal and perhaps you'll never get a deal as generous as that deal?

AL-QIDWA: I think the story of Camp David was one of the most deception that I have ever seen. Mr. Barak did not put on the table any serious offer as many rumors suggest.

Later on, things have become much more serious through the statement made by President Clinton and later on through the negotiations between the two sides in power. Only then things have become serious. Unfortunately, however, the two sides did not have enough time and, again, Mr. Barak I think is responsible to a large extent about the inability of the two sides to effectively close a deal.

ZAHN: So where are we today? The Palestinian Authority is saying there is a cease-fire in the works. Hamas is denying that's the case.

AL-QIDWA: Well, I think there is a cease-fire in the works. I think that it hasn't been formalized yet. But I think we are very close. Unfortunately, however, the Israeli occupying forces continue with their extrajudiciary execution, continue with rounding up of many Palestinians to the detention, continue with their destruction of many Palestinian assets, and as far as the Palestinian side is concerned, making our job much more harder.

ZAHN: But you heard what Mr. Barak just had to say, that the Israelis are under no obligation to stop those kinds of actions until a truce, cease-fire is entered into.

AL-QIDWA: Well, first of all, the Israelis should stop such things, because it's illegal under international law. Extrajudiciary execution is a war crime. Secondly, they should stop that, because they are the occupying power. They occupy the Palestinian people and the Palestinian territory. And thirdly, they have to stop that because it's part of the road map. The road map says that Israel has to hold all attacks against Palestinians everywhere. But unfortunately, again, you will see this kind of double talks, and you see this kind of attempts to evade the Israeli responsibilities.

Nevertheless, we will keep trying, and we are really hopeful that this time it will be possible.

ZAHN: What gives you hope?

AL-QIDWA: What gives me hope, many things. For instance, you see the renewed determination of the Palestinian administration. Definitely we have a new situation in the region as a whole, so there is this additional regional dimension. There is also the fact that I think the two sides have come really tired. And the increasing majority on the two sides are looking for a way out. So there is all these elements together that would suggest to you that this time maybe we will be more successful than previous times.

ZAHN: Mr. Barak has suggested that if the Palestinians could prove to the Israelis that these terrorist organizations are not bent on the destruction of Israel, then Israel would follow in kind and dismantle the outposts, dismantle the settlements and you could come to some sort of resolution. Do you agree with him at all?

AL-QIDWA: I don't agree with him. I don't think...

ZAHN: And what do you think the Palestinians have to do to prove to the Israelis they are serious about a cease-fire?

AL-QIDWA: Any Palestinian guide (ph) who would suggest that these groups really endanger the existence of Israel, I don't think so. Of course they can cause problems. And of course they can cause pain. And they made horrible things in the past. But the origin...

ZAHN: When they overtly say and repeatedly in videotapes and in dialogue, we don't want Israel to exist?

(CROSSTALK)

AL-QIDWA: You have Israeli ministers who are calling for the transfer of the Palestinian people from the West Bank and Gaza. So we have all kinds of terrible things in the Middle East.

The main thing is, what the leadership is saying, what the main tendency of the population on both sides. So we are trying, and the Israelis have to try in a serious way, in a much more serious way, and I think the U.S. administration has to come harder on the Israeli side. We have seen good signals, but unfortunately also we have seen some back-pedaling, some kind of erosion of the necessary pressure on the Israeli side.

And I think it's time -- it's high time for all of us to say, enough is enough, and to stop, indeed stop all these things, and start talking in a much more reasonable way.

ZAHN: I think you'll get a lot of agreement on your closing statement. Dr. Nasir al-Qidwa, thank you.

AL-QIDWA: Thank you.

ZAHN: Again, nice to have you with us in the studio.

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