Militant Groups: Arafat Aides Asked for Ban on UN Envoy

Leaders of Palestinian militant groups said Friday that top advisors to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat called on them to bar the UN's Middle East envoy from entering the Palestinian territories or meeting Palestinian officials.

Palestinian officials were infuriated earlier this week when Terje Roed-Larsen - long considered close to Arafat and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause - said at a UN Security Council briefing that Arafat was blocking vital reforms within the PA and accused him of hindering peace moves.

A spokesman for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group with ties to Arafat's ruling Fatah movement, said on condition of anonymity that Arafat aides asked the group to release a statement in conjunction with Islamic Jihad barring Larsen from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"People in Arafat's office called us and told us that Larsen's statements are just another part of the conspiracy to delegitimize Arafat," the Al-Aqsa spokesman said, and added "they told us Larsen is now with Israel and America... They asked us to intervene to stop him in his tracks."

The joint statement said Roed-Larsen is also forbidden to meet with Palestinian officials, including Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.

Roed-Larsen could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, Nasser al-Kidwa, distributed an internal document that included an unbridled attack on Larsen.

The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Danforth, phoned the Security Council, asking what it meant that the UN designated envoy to the Middle East and Quartet member is a persona non grata.

The deputy head of Israel's UN mission, Arieh Mekel, told Haaretz that, "Al-Kidwa is used to the UN automatically taking the Palestinian position and it's difficult for him to accept balanced statements such as those included in Larsen's briefing."