European Union Agrees To Receive 13 Palestinians From Bethlehem

MADRID, MAY 19, 2002 ( European Union (EU) has come to an agreement on the distribution of the 13 Palestinians, currently in deportation in Cyprus after being released from Bethlehem.

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According to sources of the Spanish government, currently holding the rotating EU presidency, one of the Palestinians will stay in Cyprus; the remaining 12 will be distributed among six countries of the Community.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Spain and Italy will each take three of the militants, Greece and Ireland will each take two, and Portugal and Belgium will both accept one.

However, some confusion arose when Belgium said certain details still had to be addressed before it would receive one of the Palestinians, and Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said he was not informed that one of the militants would be staying on the Mediterranean Island.

Spanish officials said Foreign Minister Josep Pique closed the deal late Saturday after a series of telephone conversations with other EU officials.

As regards the status of the 13 Palestinians, each of the European countries will apply its legislation if the Palestinians request asylum. If Israel calls for their extradition, the Fifteen will adopt a common position on the matter.

The diplomats said that the Palestinians would be guaranteed «a special permission to remain» in each country under police surveillance and without the right to travel abroad.

Israel regards these men as the most dangerous among those who were holed up in one of Christianity´s most sacred sites. Some 200 Palestinians, including several dozen gunmen, ran into the church on April 2 to flee advancing Israeli troops, following the wake of suicide bombings in Israel.

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