RAMALLAH, West Bank -
Yasser Arafat offered condolences on Saturday to the families
of seven astronauts -- one of them an Israeli fighter pilot --
killed in the break-up of the space shuttle Columbia.
"President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority offer their
condolences to the six American families and the Israeli family
who lost their loved ones in the catastrophe," Saeb Erekat, a
senior Palestinian official and spokesman, told Reuters.
Israeli Air Force Colonel Ilan Ramon was part of Columbia's
seven-member science mission which took off on January 16,
briefly restoring a sense of celebration and pride to a country
mired in more than two years of conflict with the Palestinians.
His participation in the mission drew tepid reactions among
Palestinians, whose uprising for independence in the occupied
West Bank and Gaza Strip has often been met with Israeli air
Erekat said Arafat had sent President Bush a message of
condolences over the loss of the NASA space agency's shuttle.
The United States, Israel's closest ally, is the chief Middle
East peace broker.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd