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Blair refuses to meet Sharon

JERUSALEM, June 21 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has refused to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a stopover in England during the Israeli leader's visit to the United States next week, the Israeli Army Radio reported Thursday.

Blair's decision follows reports in the British media that Palestinian survivors of a 1982 massacre in Lebanon have accused Sharon of allowing a militia attack on their camp. The radio said that although Blair's office has told the Israelis that the British prime minister was too busy next week to receive Sharon, "the real reason is a possible lawsuit against the Israel leader in a British court."

Last week the British Broadcasting Corp. showed a documentary - 'The Accused' - which stipulates that Sharon could be tried for war crimes for allegedly allowing the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Lebanon's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

The Israel-backed Phalange militia, which raided the two camps, also raped scores of women before killing them. The survivors have already filed a lawsuit in a Belgian court, asking the magistrate to indict Sharon for war crimes.

"In some of the European countries today, and not just England, there is a wave of anti-Israel - in essence anti-Semitic - activity... the distorted Panorama program is a clearly recognizable sign of this," said a senior Sharon aide, Zalman Shoval.

Shoval, who had no knowledge of Blair's refusal to meet Sharon, said, "Someone could have pointed out to Blair that now is not the time (to meet Sharon) for domestic reasons."

The Israeli Army Radio quoted sources in Sharon's office saying that after the embassy in London informed Blair's office that the prime minister would be making a refueling stop in London, they were told that because of a weekend holiday, the British leader would be unavailable.

Blair's response, the sources said, was not irregular, and they pointed out that Sharon had received invitations to visit France and Germany next month. -- Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

-- Swissrose (, June 21, 2001

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