February 24, 2002 – The View From Ramallah
February 24,2002 – With Israeli tanks surrounding PLO Headquarters in Ramallah, discussions between Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Security cabinet over what happens next and whether or not to lift the two-month blockade of the West Bank headquarters of Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat were taking place. Israeli, Palestinian and American security officials were also expected to meet later on this day to discuss ways of reducing the recent cycle of violence.
Arafat had been confined to his Ramallah headquarters by a ring of Israeli tanks since early December, putting the PLO leader under virtual house arrest. The consideration of lifting the blockade came on word that Palestinian Security said they rounded up three suspects in the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister in October. But the fragile Unity Government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was split over what to do. Left wingers were thought to favor lifting the blockade, in part because they believed the blockade backfired and boosted Arafat’s image at home and abroad. But a Right-Wing minister threatened to quit if the blockade was lifted and Arafat was allowed to leave Ramallah.
Meanwhile, the attempts to quell the recent upsurge of violence, despite a few incidents, was considered a lull in activity.
The U.S. and the UN called for a fresh effort to restore peace in Angola, following confirmation that the UNITA Rebel leader Jonas Savimbi had been killed in recent fighting. The State Department called on all factions to fulfill an obligation to bring peace to the Angolan people. UN Secretary General Kofi Anan said the UNITAS leader’s death had created a new, more hopeful situation in the country. UNITA representatives in Lisbon said of the death of Savimbi, that Africa had lost one of its most illustrious sons. Comparing Jonas Savimbi to Ghana’s Kwame Nkrume and other Independence leaders, UNITAS said it would, in its time, pronounce the way forward, but it gave hints as to how it would see its future following the death of its founder. They went to say that anyone who thought UNITA had died with its leader was mistaken.
And the interim leader of Afghanistan , Hamid Karzai was scheduled to arrive in Iran for two days of talks on measures to promote stability and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Observers said the Iranian declared policy was one of support for the interim administration, which it had helped to set up. But Iranian hard-liners were deeply suspicious of American intentions in the region, and some regard the Afghan leader as little more than an American puppet.
And that’s a little of what went on in the world, this February 24th in 2002 (not that long ago, and not that much has changed), as presented by the BBC World Service hourly news.