Christian Leaders Propose 3-Day Truce to U.S.

JERUSALEM, APRIL 14, 2002 ( At the end of the meeting between church leaders in the Holy Land and the U.S. secretary of state, the Franciscan Custodian of the region told Colin Powell: “Don´t leave us alone!”

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Power, a former military man, seemed moved. He shook Father Giovanni Battistelli´s hand firmly.

The Franciscan was concerned about his brother religious confined in Bethlehem´s Basilica of the Nativity, besieged by the Israeli army, ever since 200 Palestinians, many of them armed, invaded the sacred premises.

Powell met for an hour with the 13 leaders of Christian churches. They gave him a memorandum proposing a solution to the basilica siege: “to have a three-day truce declared in which the Israeli army will withdraw from Bethlehem, including the area of the basilica. Then the Palestinian Authority will be asked to collect the weapons and allow the people to go outside the basilica and to go safely home.”

The document calls for recognition of Yasser Arafat as the “elected president and the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and explains that “counterviolence will end when a political solution is implemented and guaranteed by the international community.”

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