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Mogae mourns Arafat
November 12, 2004
12 November, 2004

GABORONE ­ President Festus Mogae has sent a message of condolences to acting Palestine National Authority President Rawhi Fattur and the people of Palestine following the death Thursday of longtime PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

In a statement sent through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mogae says: "it is with deep sorrow and sadness that I have learnt of the death of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation." Mogae says Arafat, who died at the age of 75, not only symbolised the quest of the Palestinian people for peace and a sovereign Palestine state, but dedicated his entire life to the struggle to achieve that noble goal.

"The government and the people of Botswana are indeed convinced that these heroic sacrifices by Arafat will not be ignored and that the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian People will take inspiration from them to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East and a sovereign Palestinian State that enjoys the recognition and support of the international community.

"On my own behalf and on behalf and on behalf of the government and the People of Botswana, I wish to convey to you personal, and to the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people, our deepest condolences on this sad occasion," the message says.

Arafat spearheaded a four-decade struggle for statehood and was probably the world's best known guerrilla leader, who was almost never seen without his trademark chequered keffiyeh or headdress. He won the Nobel Peace Prize 10 years ago after signing the Oslo peace accord.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and US President George W. Bush, who had dismissed Arafat as an obstacle to peace, described his death as major turning point in the region's history. Russian President Vladimir Putin described Afraft as a "great political leader of international significance." French President Jacques Chirac eulogised Arafat as a "man of courage and conviction." British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Arafat "led his people to a historic acceptance and the need for a two-state solution." UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Arafat was an instantly recognised leader.

President Arafat died in a Paris, France hospital of multiple organ failure yesterday where he had been admitted on October 29 after arriving from his headquarters in Ramallah, West Bank.

Arafat is due to be buried in the West Bank.

After a funeral service in Cairo, Egypt.planned for today. Palestinian officials said Arafat's death would be marked by a 40-day official mourning period. The Palestinian flag flew at half-mast at the Muqataa and television broadcast verses from the Koran, the Muslim tradition on the death of leading figures.

Palestinian parliament speaker Fattuh was sworn in yesterday as acting head of the Palestinian Authority and pledged to hold elections soon.

Under the terms of the Palestinian basic law, the mini constitution, Fattuh will remain as caretaker head of the Palestinian Authority until fresh elections are held in 60 days.

"I promise to convene the elections within the time period as called for by the basic law," Fattuh said. Fattuh hailed Arafat as the "father of Palestinian nationalism‹the first fighter and a great martyr". BOPA/AFP/BBC


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