Ariel Sharon, responding to European pleas to rescue Yasser Arafat from his besieged compound in Ramallah, offered to give the PA Chairman a "one-way ticket." Sharon announced a formal legal inquiry to check which steps, including deportation, could be taken against the families, dispatchers and religious influencers of suicide bombers.
Sharon was asked by European Union envoy Miguel Moratinos whether Arafat would be able to leave Ramallah. "I told him (Moratinos), if they would like that we will bring him somewhere or they will come with a helicopter and take him from here," he would agree, under three conditions. "First, I would have to bring this to the Cabinet; second, he can't take anyone with him, the murderers who are located around him there; and the third thing is that it will be a one-way ticket. He will not be able to return."
Israeli analysts suggest that the Prime Minister is preparing the ground for eventual deportation of the Palestinian leader. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Power, however, questioned the value of deporting Arafat. "Sending him into exile will just give him another place from which to conduct the same kinds of activities and give the same messages that he is giving now. So until he decides that he is leaving the country, it seems to me that we need to work with him from where he is. And where he is, is in Ramallah."
Palestinian spokespeople rejected the idea out of hand, saying that Arafat would never leave his homeland. "Yasser Arafat will not accept exile from his homeland under any circumstances, Palestinian minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "Arafat said there is not a single Palestinian who will accept going into exile under any circumstances," he told Reuters.
However, Israeli analysts noted that Arafat had made similar claims before being forced out of Jordan and Lebanon, in the latter case under pressure from Ariel Sharon. They also referred to the day's events, in which Jibril Rajoub said that the fugitives sheltered in his compound would never surrender, and would "fight to the last bullet." However, after facing an Israel bombardment, and an assurance that the IDF was prepared to "go all the way," Rajoub agreed several hours later to a U.S.-mediated ceasefire, which was conditioned on the surrender and arrest of several hundred suspected terrorists.
Sharon also announced plans to pass a law directed against those who influence suicide bombers. "Within a few days, we will do a check that will include all those steps, against the suicide bombers, their families, their dispatchers, and the religious figures that assisted them to get into this process."
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election
On December 14, President Putin holds his annual Q&A session with Russian and foreign journalists. This conference is considered to be the beginning of his presidential campaign