Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and hawkish Israeli politician Ariel Sharon rarely agree, but yesterday both harshly criticized Israel”s beleaguered Prime Minister Ehud Barak, blaming him for the current Mideast turmoil.

Barak had hoped peace negotiations this past week in Egypt would revive his sagging election campaign ahead of the Feb. 6 vote for prime minister. Both Israeli and Palestinian negotiators offered an upbeat assessment of the talks that concluded Saturday, saying they had never been closer to an overall agreement.

But a day later, Barak was under attack from both his Israeli and Palestinian rivals.

Sharon, favored in next week”s election, denounced the concessions Barak offered to the Palestinians and made clear he would remove them from the table if he triumphed at the polls.

“These meetings (in Egypt) were not meant to seriously tackle the problems in front of us. This is some electoral stunt,” Sharon said.

Arafat, meanwhile, unleashed his salvo from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“The current government of Israel has waged for the past four months a savage and barbaric war as well as a blatant and fascist military aggression against our Palestinian people,” said Arafat.

There had been talk of a Barak-Arafat meeting this week in Sweden, but Barak”s office said last night that the prime minister had decided “not to continue political contacts with Arafat and his people until after the elections.”

Sharon leads Barak by 16 to 20 percentage points in opinion polls that have changed little in recent weeks. Most analysts say Barak needs some sort of peace agreement to energize his flagging campaign, and the Taba talks were seen as his last real shot at a pre-election breakthrough.

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