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Arafat Aide, Hezbollah Leader Meet

March 26, 2002

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ An aide to Yasser Arafat held talks Tuesday with the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrilla group, which has been accused of fanning Palestinian violence and branded terrorist by the United States.

Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO foreign minister, said Hezbollah’s successful guerrilla war in southern Lebanon was a model for other Arabs seeking to end Israeli occupation.

``We are optimistic. Hezbollah’s resistance can be used as an example for other Arabs seeking to regain their rights,″ Kaddoumi told reporters after meeting Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunis and was in the Lebanese capital for a summit of Arab leaders, said it was the first time a top Arafat aide has met with Hezbollah.

The meeting came as Israel has accused Hezbollah’s top backer, Iran, of striking a deal with Arafat’s Palestinian Authority to provide it with millions of dollars worth of heavy weaponry. The Palestinians deny the claim, calling it Israeli misinformation.

Hezbollah, which finds its base support among Lebanon’s Shiite Muslims, has repeatedly urged the Palestinians to follow the example of its war against Israel and step up their uprising.

The guerrilla movement battled Israeli troops in southern Lebanon until May 2000, when Israel pulled out of a strip along the border that it had held for 18 years.

Three Hezbollah members have been detained in Jordan recently for allegedly trying to smuggle rockets to the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Early this year, Israel seized a ship carrying 50 tons of Iranian-supplied arms allegedly intended for the Palestinian Authority.

Kaddoumi said briefed Nasrallah on the latest developments in the Palestinian territories and thanked him ``for the support we receive from Hezbollah in the political arena.″ Kaddoumi said he made no ``specific demands″ during the meeting.

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