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Thread: Sharon Muzzles Ministers on London Blasts

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    erose001 Guest

    Sharon Muzzles Ministers on London Blasts

    Sharon muzzles ministers on London blasts

    By Matt Spetalnick1 hour, 2 minutes ago

    Reuters - Israel's Ariel Sharon has imposed a gag order on his cabinet over the London bombings to avoid offending British sensibilities with comparisons to his country's fight against Palestinian militants, officials said.

    The prime minister muzzled his normally talkative cabinet after Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom seemed to equate Thursday's deadly attacks with suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, comments that Israeli commentators said were ill-timed.

    "Keep quiet. Limit any response to expressions of condolences," was Sharon's message to his ministers after rush-hour blasts killed more than 50 people in central London.

    "The feeling is the last thing the British need right now is Israeli ministers preaching to them about the war on terror," a Sharon confidant said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the London bombings as an "ugly crime."

    After al Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Sharon was quick to draw parallels to Israel's own struggle against Islamic militancy. At the time, Israelis were battling a wave of suicide bombings in a Palestinian uprising.

    But with a five-month-old ceasefire in effect, Sharon is taking a different tack in response to the London bombings, which British officials said bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

    Sharon wants to keep a low profile to avoid stirring anti-Israel sentiment in Britain or causing any fallout in relations, which have sometimes been rocky, officials said.

    Sharon telephoned his condolences to Blair calling the bombings "a terrible and cruel crime" that created "difficult days" for the British people.

    He also offered Israel's assistance. Channel Two Television said Israel was ready to share intelligence with the British authorities.

    Blair replied he was aware of Israel's suffering from terrorism and that in this regard there was a close tie between their two peoples, Sharon's office said in a statement.


    Some ordinary Israelis voiced hope the London bombings would cause the British and other Europeans, whom they regard as biased in favor of the Palestinians, to have more sympathy for Israelis killed or wounded in Palestinian attacks.

    "Jerusalem-on-Thames" read a front page headline in the Haaretz daily. In Jerusalem, hard hit by bombers in the past 4-1/2 years, guards stand outside cafes and markets, and shoppers must pass through metal detectors to enter malls.

    "I'm hoping people will have a little bit more solidarity with us and the hardships that we go through," said Jerusalem resident Ben Katz.

    Despite Sharon's directive, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting London at the time of the blasts, wrote in the daily Maariv: "Now the British have unwillingly joined not only us, the Israelis, in absorbing murderous attacks in the heart of their cities.

    Netanyahu told Sky television in a separate interview that pressure should be applied by Western nations on Iran and Saudi Arabia, countries he accused of supporting terrorist groups.

    "Without this kind of support al Qaeda would be in a much more difficult state ... in fact its defeat would be much more imminent," Netanyahu said.

    Israeli pundits appeared torn between admiring the way London's emergency services, news media and citizens coped with the bombings and criticising the apparent intelligence failure that meant the bomb plot went undetected.

    Palestinians have matched Israeli condemnation of the bombings.

    But the militant Islamic group Hamas, whose suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in public places since the start of the Palestinian uprising, nuanced its response.

    While denouncing the London attacks, Hamas -- sworn to Israel's destruction -- called for an end to "occupation, aggression and injustices against Islamic and Arab nations" which it said created the climate for such bombings. (Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)

    Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
    Last edited by erose001; 07-08-2005 at 03:51 PM. Reason: changing sub option

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