Israel Resource Review 1st September, 1998


Eyewitness to the Oslo "Reunion"
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst

On August 24, I flew to the Holmenkollin Park Hotel in Oslo, Norway, to cover a hastily organized "fifth anniversary" conference that was held exactly five years to exact day and the very place where the "Oslo accords" had been agreed to by the bonafide representatives of the government of Israel and the PLO.

While the governments of Israel and Norway have indeed changed, you could walk into the lobby of the Holmenkollin Park Hotel in Oslo and see many of the people who brought you the original Oslo process still at work, even if they were no longer in government.

In the hotel lobbies that were spread over two spacious floors, you could noticeably see Shimon Peres and Uri Savir, five years ago with the top brass of the Israel Foreign Ministry and now the heads of the Peres Center for Peace in the Middle East, hob-nobbing with Arafat's top advisor, Abu Allah, as they loudly discussed the nostalgia for the good times of five years ago.

And in another corner of the lobby, you could see the Palestine Authority chief negotiator Hanan Asfour who was quietly ensconced with Likud majority leader Meir Shitrit, a man who was sent by the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, to attend the conference on behalf of the Israeli head of state. Shitrit emerged from his coffee table summit with Asfour to tell the press, quite matter of factly, that the differences between Israel and the Palestine Authority were not too significant, and that another deal was in the works.

And in another corner of the lobby sat Peres's trusted protege, MK Dr. Yossi Beillin, who was meeting with Dr. Uzi Arad, the special national security advisor to Netanyahu. Arad had just stated a few days earlier that Dr. Beillin's idea for a delayed recognition of Palestinian Arab independence was "worthy of consideration".

And in the downstairs auditorium at the Holmenkollin Park Hotel was a reminder of the more difficult side of the Oslo process: It was there that Norwegian statesman, Kare Kristansen, conducted a full fledged news conference for the Norwegian media, where Kristiansen showed a recent comprehensive video clip from the official PA Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, complied by the Jerusalem- based "Peace for Generations" group, whose representative, Daniel Yosef, had come from Jerusalem to join Kristansen and present a video which showed that the official programs of the Palestine Authority were airing daily television programs that egged on Arab children to a life of "Jihad" holy war to liberate all of Palestine.

Upstairs, again in the lobby, one of the chief US negotiators, Aron Miller, declared that the greatest disappointment in the Oslo process was that the Palestinians had simply not changed their "tone" in Arabic.

Kristiansen, it will be remembered, was the one member of the Nobel Peace Prize committee to resign from the committee rather than to sanction the nomination of Arafat as a Nobel Peace prize laureate.

Kristensan declared that it was strange to celebrate this anniversary, since that day commemorated Arafat's as-yet unfulfilled commitment to cancel the covenant and constitution of the PLO whose 33 articles calls for continued war and the eventual liquidation of the state of Israel.

Kristensan went on to describe Arafat's record: The fact that Arafat has never issued a denunciation of the murder of Jews in Arabic, the fact that Arafat has continued to give speeches that preach Jihad and the liberation of all of Palestine, along with an analysis of Arafat's human rights policies, which have included the arrest and execution of human rights workers, independent TV producers, and a host of Palestinian dissidents

The unkindest cut of all, in the words of Kare Kristensan, was that the "decision" of August 25, 1993 to cancel the covenant was never ratified, to this day, a factor which should have nullified any reason for the commemoration of that date.

Well, there may have been another reason for the hastily called conference.

That reason may have something to do with Arafat's personal condition.

From the first day of the Oslo process, every major and minor decision rests on Arafat.

Like him or not as a "democrat", Arafat has been a strong leader who makes his presence felt in the Palestine Authority.

Arafat has demonstrated, time and again, that he can turn the spigot of violence and terror "on and off", according to his will.

On the economic front, not only do all decisions go through Arafat - all moneys flow through accounts in Israel and the Palestine Authority that actually require Arafat's personal signature. That is written quite clearly in the Oslo accords.

The Oslo process dependence on Arafat was made most clear when Kjell Magne Bondevick, the Prime Minister of Norway confided in the press on the morning of the commemorative event that the success of the process is dependent on strong and personal support for Yassir Arafat. Only a few months ago, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl summoned Netanyahu to Bonn with precisely the same message.

After a festive meal at the Holmenkollin Park Hotel, a crowd of diplomats and dignitaries gathered at Norway's famous "Nobel Institute", where the Nobel Prize is bequeathed each year, and where Arafat, Peres and Rabin had received their award four years ago - an event that I had also come to Oslo to cover.

This was an unusual occasion - to honor Nobel laureates for a second time

After the crowd had gathered, Arafat walked in the room, holding on to Shimon Peres. Arafat was asked to speak first. Since I have covered and chronicled Arafat's speeches over the past five years, I was expecting another dose of Arafat's accomplished oratory, however reconciliatory it would be in light of the venue. Yet Arafat spoke in a hushed tone, in Arabic, reading from a prepared text and asking his aide, Saeb Erakat, to translate every few minutes.

Arafat simply stressed Palestinian nationalism and added a few thoughts about "education for peace".

Peres followed suit with a call to peace, as did Meir Shitrit and US diplomat Dennis Ross, after which the conference adjourned for the panelists to meet just with the press.

During the informal break in events, as Arafat walked by me, I approached him with my microcassette and proverbial reporter's pad, asking Arafat if he would make a statement in Arabic about the recent murder of Rabbi Shlomo Raanan in Hebron, since no statement had yet been issued from any official PA source on this matter.

Arafat placed a very jittery hand on my elbow. His lips were stammering. His legs were not steady. His eyes were bloodshot. His face was gaunt. Only eighteen months ago, when I had accompanied a delegation of Judea residents to meet him - he now seemed two thirds the weight he used to be. He could not hear me, even though I was speaking to him from point-blank range. He squinted, barely able to see me. Arafat stopped in his tracks, trying to focus on my question. Then his security man pushed Arafat ahead towards the toilet.

I had seen Arafat at a public presentation in Ramallah only a few months ago. He did not look or act like this. Perhaps Arafat had suffered some kind of stroke.

When Arafat returned to the hall, he sat at a press conference table next to Erakat, together with Ross, Peres and Shitrit, opposite about twenty. Arafat could not hear the questions from only a few feet away. Erekat communicated them to him. I, for one, asked about the Palestine Broadcasting Authority children's programs that are televised each day on the official PA TV station, operating from Arafat's own studio. I asked if these programs that promoted violence were the "education for peace" that he advocated.

Arafat responded by saying that there were 840,000 Palestinian children going to school in the Palestine Authority, and that the Jordanian and Egyptian curriculum would soon be changed.

I again asked Arafat whether the children's TV programs on PA TV represented the kind of programs that would become the Palestinian educational curriculum. Eraket then whispered in Arafat's ear. Arafat then said that he has issued orders for an investigation of the PBC TV children's club program. Erakat then said that he was hearing about this program from many of his Jewish friends and that he had "told Arafat" to ask for an investigation of the matter.

What shocked the press in Oslo was that Arafat was no longer functioning.

Having been trained in medical social work and having watched my own father suffer through a series of mini-strokes for three years before his death, I do not have to be a medical expert to know that the Palestinian national movement that has been oriented around Yassir Arafat for a generation must now foster a new modus operandus.

What the press witnessed in Arafat's behavior in Oslo is what European, American, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have also seen. The cat is out of the bag. Arafat is on the way out. Even if he continues to live, he is no longer a functional leader.

Writing in the summer 1998 issue of Foreign Affairs, a leading Palestinian researcher writes that Arafat's deterioration of health may bring about a Hamas take-over of the Palestine Authority.

And what feeds Moslem fundamentalism more than any other factor remains the allegation of corruption. From the Jewish-Moslem dialogue group that I attend, I have learned from Moslem colleagues that when a public entity is accused of stealing funds, it is like stealing from Allah (God)

Yet at a time when the US and some circles in the west face a new battle with Moslem fundamentalism, from Kenya to Afghanistan, the last thing that the US and the EU want to see now is a Hamas-led Palestinian entity.

It would be fair to say that the reason for a hastily convened summit in Oslo this week was to prepare for a post-Arafat period in the peace process, while giving Arafat an honorable send-off at the Nobel Insitute in Oslo.

It would seem that the relationships that were again fostered in Oslo will again form the basis of the next step in the middle east peace process.

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The Incidental Fruit of Oslo
by Naseer Aruri
Al-Ahram Weekly, 13th - 19th August, 1998


The Oslo Accords dealt a crippling blow to the foundations of the global consensus which defined the prerequisites for a just and durable peace during the 1970s and 80s{IMREA comment: A fantastic fabrication!}-- that peace was predicated on the right of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state alongside Israel. That peace was to occur after Israel completed its withdrawal from the Occupied Territories in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242, and after the Palestinians recognised Israel's existence and sovereignty in the largest part of their own national patrimony.

Negotiations between Israel and the PA are like encounters between the elephant and the fly. The current stalemate will continue to be fueled by divisions inside Israel, which now centre not on whether Oslo will end the occupation and restore a measure of normality to Israelis and Palestinians, but on the most efficient and least disruptive approach to preserving the status-quo under a more benign label. The method of repackaging the occupation is what really divided Rabin from Netanyahu, a fact that has not been lost on a sizable sector of the Palestinian community, inside and outside Palestine. While some comprehend it well, others feel it instinctively, irrespective of Arafat's constant expressions of nostalgia for and repeated devotion to Rabin's legacy.

Arafat has placed himself in the untenable position of being unable to deliver to either Israel and the US or to his own constituents, who were ready to scale down their aspirations but not surrender their rights. His denunciations of terror and vows to eradicate violence, repeatedly urged by the US and Israel, are seen in the Palestinian street as an ominous attack on civil liberties. Moreover, his assumption of responsibility for Israel's security is becoming increasingly incontrovertible when that security keeps on assuming dimensions which negate Palestinian rights -- water security, settlements security and demographic security, which negates the rights of refugees.

All of these factors confirm and prolong the stalemate. Oslo was not designed as a normal traditional agreement. It has now become a guarantor of disagreement and the legitimiser of the status quo. The Palestinians have no other choice but to struggle for equal rights and equal dignity. Not only had Oslo foreclosed on their option of a separate and sovereign existence; it has also denied them the right to struggle for that existence, inasmuch as most variants of the struggle are bound to be classified as either terrorism, lack of reciprocity, failure to abide by commitments or acting against peace.

The process which began in Oslo will reach nowhere because the nature of the Israeli state precludes genuine coexistence with the Palestinian people on equal basis. As long as the Zionist ideology of acquiring the land without the people prevails, a negotiated settlement based on the right of the two people to dignity and self-determination will continue to be elusive. Binyamin Netanyahu did not repudiate Rabin's strategy; he only rejected his tactics.

Any forward movement beyond the present no peace/no war situation would require a debate of Zionist ideology and history, in which difficult questions, suppressed since the establishment of Israel, would surface. At the heart of the debate would be the main Zionist narrative and its negative portrayal of Arabs, distortion of history and the requirements of peace. Already, we are told, a post-Zionist debate is taking place inside Israel. The question is how extensively has it been followed by the general public. Political Scientist Ilan Pappe has written a series of studies on this post-Zionist critique and its manifestations in various Israeli cultural products, including films, plays, music, novels and short stories as well as in scholarly discourse. Pappe's writings reveal how intertwined the lives of Israelis and Palestinians have become. There is an implication in his work that Israel cannot prosper as an isolated Western outpost in the region:

A democratic pluralist Israel as a part of the Mediterranean is also an Israel with many historical narratives. Such an Israel has a chance of a common future. The question of whether Zionism is a movement of national plundering or a movement of a persecuted people acting according to a human ethic, seeking compromise and peace is being increasingly raised by Israeli intellectuals. The historian Benny Morris framed the question in terms of the accuracy of the "Zionist ethos claims that we came to this land not to exploit the natives and expel them, and not to occupy them by force."

Only when this kind of critique is broadened to include the mainstream and penetrate the consciousness of the average Israeli will the so-called peace process begin to assume some hopefuldimensions. Only when the Palestinians decide to rediscover their democratic secular state framework and begin to adapt it to the present realities will hopes for real peace be rekindled. Call it a bi-national solution, a federal system or a cantonal system on the Swiss model, the common denominators will have to be equal rights, equal citizenship, plurality, coexistence and common humanity. That requires a de-Zionised Israel and a normal polity which exists for its own citizens, devoid of any privileges based on religion, ethnicity, race or gender.

The writer is member of the Palestine National Council and Chancellor Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

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US Pushes for Halt of Iraqi Searches
U.S. Tried to Halt Several Searches
Intervention Began Last Fall

by Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 27, 1998

The Clinton administration has intervened repeatedly since last fall to delay or prevent intrusive weapons inspections in Iraq by United Nations teams, according to American and diplomatic accounts.

The interventions included at least six occasions, beginning in November 1997, in which Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright or other top administration officials sought -- with success in each case but one -- to persuade chief U.N. inspector Richard Butler to rescind orders for surprise searches for weapons of mass destruction or to remove a controversial inspector from Iraq. In March, according to sources, the United States and the United Kingdom put an end to the U.N. Special Commission's most successful new inspection technique by withdrawing one critical form of intelligence support -- including information, equipment and personnel -- they had provided to the U.N. inspectors until then.

Since the first report surfaced earlier this month of the administration's efforts to restrain the special commission, Albright has complained angrily to associates that she was portrayed as unprincipled or soft on Iraq. In private conversations, according to accounts of those present, she argued that the administration sought only to control the pace of confrontation with Iraq to create the best conditions in which to prevail.

What has not been disclosed before is the extent to which overt U.S. support for the inspectors was accompanied, as Washington and the special commission grew more isolated diplomatically, by increasing American efforts to prevent the inspectors from exceeding the administration's diminishing capacity to protect them.

The resulting U.S. efforts to restrain weapons searches conflicted with robust public rhetoric in support of the special commission's right to make what Albright often called "unfettered, unconditional inspections" of any site in Iraq, at any time. They also coincided, sometimes to the day, with explicit military threats by American officials against Iraq should it turn the inspectors aside.

Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering said in a telephone interview last night that any mere list of U.S. interventions to restrain the special commission "misses reams of context and a great deal of what was happening in and around the process that clearly informed our decisions." Among them he cited "the shape of UNSCOM's support at any given point in the Security Council, which has been eroding badly."

"The United States over the years in my view has an unparalleled, second-to- none record in supporting UNSCOM, and that means providing equipment, personnel and support for it, and in the Security Council at each turn . . . [putting] the major effort on the line in each and every resolution, and each and every circumstance, including on a number of occasions deploying military forces," he added.

In an interview yesterday morning, Butler deflected direct questions about specific American attempts to influence the commission's work, but acknowledged unspecified instances of intervention in his operational decisions from foreign capitals, including Washington.

"I have received representations about how I should conduct this work, sometimes with quite specific aspects, including the identity of the chief inspector, from multiple sources," he said. "Representations of views on such subjects by the United States were certainly not the only ones I received. A number of members of the Security Council have views on the same subjects and felt happy in coming to me with those views, and sometimes expressing them very strongly. I've sometimes felt strongly in the sense that I was being threatened."

Later, in reply to a two-page letter providing fuller details of this article, Butler faxed a statement that "as a matter of sound policy, I am unable to comment" further.

U.S. efforts to restrain the most provocative of Butler's inspections began on Nov. 22 last year, shortly after Iraq touched off the most serious crisis since the Security Council demanded its disarmament in Resolution 687 of April 1991, according to accounts by individuals with first-hand knowledge of the events and according to supporting documents.

The previous month Iraq had expelled all American nationals on UNSCOM inspection teams. The Clinton administration, though well aware of what it called "sanctions fatigue" among its allies, was stunned nonetheless by the weakness of the Security Council's reply: On Nov. 12, in Resolution 1137, the council voted only to limit international travel by a handful of Iraqi officials.

For a brief period, Iraq allowed inspectors to return, and Butler dispatched a team that arrived in Baghdad on Nov. 21 and 22.

Butler had signed confidential orders for a no-notice inspection on Nov. 23 of the former headquarters of the 3rd Battalion of Iraq's Special Republican Guard, which the U.N. panel believed to be central to Iraqi efforts to conceal forbidden arms. Following a standard procedure that neither UNSCOM nor Washington officially acknowledges, Butler's senior staff briefed a liaison officer from the Central Intelligence Agency, based at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, on the intended target, sources said.

Albright telephoned Butler less than 24 hours before the surprise search was to take place, sources said. She urged him to delay the operation, arguing that it would precipitate a crisis before the military or diplomatic groundwork had been laid.

Around midnight at the Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Center, the UNSCOM headquarters in Iraq, the special weapons team received new orders from Butler aborting its mission. Soon afterward, Butler issued guidance to his senior staff ruling out new inspections until further notice at Iraq's Special Security Organization, Special Republican Guard, Republican Guard or any other site designated "sensitive" by the Baghdad government.

In a pattern that would be repeated in the year to come, some inspectors and their advocates in Washington chafed at the restraints.

To keep ahead of the inspectors, Iraq has developed a standard procedure in which it moves forbidden weapons components and the documents describing them every 30 days, and it conducts drills to evacuate or destroy evidence on 15 minutes' notice, sources said.

It has proved difficult for inspectors to move as quickly. They typically must go through several stages: developing and analyzing intelligence leads from defectors, satellite and reconnaissance photographs and the results of other collection efforts; planning an inspection in operational detail to foil Iraqi counterintelligence efforts; assembling a team of specialists, some of them borrowed from sympathetic governments, and deploying the team to Baghdad.

Because the leads are perishable, inspectors regard any delay in exploiting them as tantamount to abandoning a target.

On Dec. 16, after four days of unfruitful talks with the Baghdad government, Butler flew to Bahrain and signed written orders -- known formally as Notices of Inspection Site -- for an aggressive program of surprise inspections. In one of the orders, the team designated as UNSCOM 218 was ordered to make a surprise visit on Dec. 20 to a site known as Jabal Makhul High Security Area, a system of underground conduits in a presidential palace north of Tikrit where the commission believed Iraq was hiding boxes of incriminating documents. In another, the team was directed to go on Dec. 23 to the headquarters of the Special Security Organization (SSO) in Baghdad.

As Butler returned to New York, the leader of UNSCOM 218, Scott Ritter, left Bahrain for Baghdad. On Dec. 18, he did the first of his no-notice inspections -- to a complex of SSO villas in Habaniyeh -- and was met with outrage by Iraqi officials.

At about that time, the U.S. government began pressing Butler to cancel the rest of the intrusive inspections, according to officials. The Clinton administration cited an ongoing, but as yet insufficient, military buildup in the region and diplomatic efforts that were still at an early stage.

Later on Dec. 18, Butler telephoned Ritter, using a secure telephone, and rescinded his remaining inspection orders.

The following month, when Ritter returned with a subsequent team, UNSCOM 227, Iraq again halted the commission's work on Jan. 12. It accused the commission, and Ritter in particular, of "fabricating lies, deliberately prolonging the work, and submitting false reports to the Security Council."

Butler had signed new orders to search the SSO headquarters on Jan. 16, along with the offices of Presidential Secretary Abed Hamid Mahmoud, a close aide to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein suspected of coordinating activities to conceal weapons programs. But on Jan. 15, U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson called Butler to his office across Manhattan's First Avenue and asked him -- without explanation -- to withdraw Ritter from Iraq.

Butler complied immediately. Ritter left Baghdad ahead of schedule, but read a statement drafted for him in New York and Washington portraying his departure as routine. He ad-libbed one line: "We will be back."

After an American military and diplomatic buildup, Iraq agreed on Feb. 23 to unrestricted access for inspectors and a new set of special procedures at eight so-called presidential sites. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who negotiated the deal with Saddam Hussein and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, urged Butler not to send Ritter -- as he planned -- in the first inspections testing that agreement.

Albright telephoned Butler around that time, sources said, with similar advice, describing Ritter as a lightning rod and asking whether he might be held back in New York or direct the searches from Bahrain. Butler dispatched him anyway, and Albright telephoned again March 2 with a more forceful restatement of the U.S. objection. If Iraq was going to balk it should be seen as rejecting the inspection, not the inspector, she argued.

The same day, the Security Council passed the American-drafted resolution promising "severest consequences" if Iraq failed to keep its promises of Feb. 23. The following day, Assistant Secretary of State James P. Rubin said the resolution meant that "military force will ensue" immediately if Iraq came into breach.

At around the same time on March 3, Butler relieved Ritter of command and ordered him to appoint a new chief inspector. But after Ritter's four senior subordinates sent Butler an "eyes only" fax protesting the decision, Butler reversed himself.

Later that month, the United States and Britain withdrew crucial elements of the intelligence support that allowed the special commission to observe Iraqi concealment efforts as they happened during surprise inspections.

In June, after a fallow period for the commission, Butler dispatched lieutenants to London and Washington to brief officials on seven proposed inspection targets in two major categories: the SSO and Mahmoud's secretarial office. The inspections were set for July 20.

On July 15, British official Derek Plumbly and Peter Burleigh, the second ranking U.S. delegate at the United Nations, questioned Butler about the timing. One central argument was that Iraq's agreed "schedule of work" with UNSCOM gave it an appearance of compliance that would make aggressive new inspections look provocative, sources said.

But the following month, the Clinton administration argued roughly the opposite case: that Iraq's open defiance beginning Aug. 3 meant that Butler should lay low. Butler had authorized an Aug. 6 inspection of a site believed to contain sensitive ballistic missile components and another housing documents. In an Aug. 4 telephone call to Butler -- for which he had to be summoned to a secure line at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain -- Albright argued that pursuit of those leads would make Butler the issue again when Saddam Hussein was misbehaving.

Butler postponed the inspections for three days, to Aug. 9, and aborted them altogether after a second high-level U.S. intervention on Aug. 7.

James Foley, Albright's acting spokesman, said last night that "it's not for nothing that Saddam Hussein has called Secretary Albright a snake and a witch, among other things. He knows that the United States is the strongest backer of UNSCOM in the Security Council, and he knows she is a forceful advocate of standing up to him through diplomatic and military means."

Another Albright associate, who discussed the matter with her, said "she saw herself as trying to control the pace of any confrontation with Iraq so that it would remain manageable."

"Madeleine was very sensible, very realistic in avoiding a crisis with Iraq," said a high-ranking foreign diplomat who knows her well. "The Americans know the Russians, Chinese and French do not want war, so it is a sensible move."

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Palestine Authority Officials Comment on American Attacks

Senior PA Official: Clinton is "a Terrorist" (24th August, 1998)

Following are two recent references by senior Palestinian officials to the US missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan:

24th August, 1998 interview on Israel Army radio with Sufian Abu Zaida, head of the PA's Israel desk

"Question: Tell me, does the Palestinian Authority support the American action against targets in Sudan and Afghanistan?

Sufian Abu Zaida: Of course not. Of course not.... We do not agree and we shall not agree. I do not think it would be right for us to agree with the American attack on Afghanistan and Sudan. It would be a disgrace if a Palestinian or an Arab were to agree to this, since there was no proof. The United States can not be both the guardian of law in the world and the one who enforces it.

Question: . . . So you come and say that we can not totally rely on American intelligence?

Sufian Abu Zaida: That is the answer. That is the answer - to kill Sudanese and Afghan civilians - that is the answer? Let us say that Bin Laden is a terrorist, let's assume that he is a terrorist and that he did it. So Clinton is also a terrorist who kills Afghan and Sudanese innocents. That is the answer?!"

Interview on 21st August, 1998 with Secretary-General of the PA Cabinet Ahmad Abd al-Rahman on the official PA radio station the Voice of Palestine

"These air operations against a sovereign country like Sudan and also against a sovereign country like Afghanistan are a serious precedent in international relations. It is an aggression against the sovereignty of these countries . . . . I say that this precedent might open the door to the return of the law of the jungle governing relations among countries... We view these efforts as harmful to peace efforts, to stability in the Middle East. They also show that some quarters in the US administration might be more inclined to adopt the policy of force instead of the policy of settling issues peacefully."

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