Sunday 12 January 2003

ECB head's wife says Sharon provokes violence

The wife of European Central Bank chief Wim Duisenberg on Saturday described Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories as "inhuman" and accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of provoking violence.

Gretta Duisenberg has stirred international controversy by using a diplomatic passport to visit Palestinian President Yasser Arafat this week, urging an end to Israeli occupation and making remarks that Dutch and Israeli officials have called biased and Jewish groups said verged on anti-Semitism.

The ECB chief's spouse, who heads a pro-Palestinian activist group in the Netherlands and last year hung a Palestinian flag from her family home, said after further talks with Palestinians she wanted to look into alleged Israeli human rights violations.

"The power of the Israeli government to humiliate (Palestinians) like that -- I cannot stand it ... If you see it yourself, it's more inhuman," Duisenberg told Reuters after a meeting with Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.

She blamed Israel for the violence afflicting the region since Palestinians launched an uprising in September 2000 for a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

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