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Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat sent a letter of condolences yesterday to President Moshe Katsav on the death of the seven crew members aboard the U.S. space shuttle Columbia on Saturday.

"We were very sad to hear the news about the dreadful air disaster which hit the American space shuttle on its return from a mission in space, taking the lives of the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and his colleagues. In the name of the Palestinian people and personally, we extend our sincere and heartfelt condolences to you and to our neighbors, the Israeli people, and to the honorable family of the deceased and his friends."

President Katsav also received condolence messages yesterday from the presidents of France, Germany, Croatia and Slovakia.