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`My People Are Hoping....'

Excerpts from remarks by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

IN the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Passionate. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express our tremendous appreciation to President Clinton and to his administration for sponsoring this historic event, which the entire world has been waiting for. Mr. President, I am taking this opportunity to assure you and to assure the great American people that we share your values for freedom, justice, and human rights - values for which my people have been striving.

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My people are hoping that this agreement, which we are signing today, marks the beginning of the end of a chapter of pain and suffering, which has lasted throughout this century.

My people are hoping that this agreement, which we are signing today, will usher in an age of peace, coexistence, and equal rights. We are relying on your role, Mr. President, and on the role of all the countries which believe that without peace in the Middle East, peace in the world will not be complete.

Enforcing the agreement and moving toward the final settlement, after two years, to implement all aspects of UN Resolutions 242 and 338 in all of their aspects, and resolve all the issues of Jerusalem, the settlements, the refugees, and the boundaries will be a Palestinian and an Israeli responsibility.

It is also the responsibility of the international community in its entirety to help the parties overcome the tremendous difficulties which are still standing in the way of reaching a final and comprehensive settlement.

Let me address the people of Israel and their leaders ... and let me assure them that the difficult decision we reached together was one that required great and exceptional courage. We will need more courage and determination to continue the course of building coexistence and peace between us.

Our people do not consider that exercising the right to self-determination could violate the rights of their neighbors or infringe on their security.

Rather, putting an end to their feelings of being wronged and of having suffered an historic injustice is the strongest guarantee to achieve coexistence and openness between our two peoples and future generations. Such a shift will give us an opportunity to embark upon the process of economic, social, and cultural growth and development... . This shift will also provide an opportunity for all forms of cooperation on a broad scale and in all fields.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the battle for peace is the most difficult battle of our lives. It deserves our utmost efforts because the land of peace, the land of peace yearns for a just and comprehensive peace. ... Mr. President, thank you, thank you, thank you.''

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