Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The German Embassy in Israel Monday denied that Berlin's foreign minister had coerced Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat into calling a ceasefire by threatening to withhold funding to the self-rule authority.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who was in the region on Friday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Tel Aviv disco, met Arafat on Saturday and urged him to declare a halt to the violence.
Flanked by Fischer, Arafat announced that the PA would "exert our utmost efforts to stop the bloodshed of our people and the Israeli people, and to do all that is needed to achieve an immediate and unconditional, real and effective ceasefire."
Media reports suggested that Fischer threatened to withdraw German financial aid from the PA if Arafat did not make the announcement. They also suggested that Fischer, himself, had written Arafat's statement.
"Complete nonsense," German Embassy spokesman Reinhard Wiemer said Monday of the allegations that Fischer threatened stop financial aid. Germany couldn't even withdraw the money if it wanted to, he said, since it comes from the European Union and not Germany itself.
Wiemer acknowledged that the declaration came as a result of the Arafat-Fischer meeting.
"Fischer made it clear how serious the situation is, that Arafat doesn't have much time [and] the results must be seen," he said. "He spoke very firmly but didn't threaten."
Fischer, who was staying at a hotel across the street from the Dolphin club on the Tel Aviv beachfront when the attack occurred, went to the site on Saturday to lay a wreath in honor of those killed. Then he went to see Arafat.
The PA chairman came under intensive pressure to make an announcement, particularly after Western nations suggested that Israel had every right to retaliate.
President Bush condemned the attack and said it illustrated "the urgent need for an immediate, unconditional cessation of violence." He called on Arafat "to condemn this act and to call for an immediate cease-fire."
Israeli analysts have questioned Arafat's sincerity, suggesting he made the move only to avoid a harsh Israeli response.
In other developments, a fierce gun battle between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops raged for at least three hours Monday along the border with Egypt.