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Arafat out of contact with Clinton administration

March 25, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ As the United States steps up its demands that Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority call for a halt in terrorist attacks on Israel, the Palestinian leader is out of touch with the Clinton administration.

And it’s not that Washington has not tried to reach him.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that the administration has tried several times to reach Arafat. ``We think it’s important we have a dialogue with Chairman Arafat now,″ said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Traveling in Asia, Arafat has not talked to top U.S. officials in several days, even as chief U.S. mediator Dennis Ross contemplates a trip to the Middle East to try to get Israeli-Palestinian talks back on track.

Routinely, Ross or any other senior mediator would try to make their case for negotiations at the top _ with Arafat for the Palestinians and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel.

``I don’t believe we have had direct contact in several days,″ John Dinger, a State Department spokesman, said of Arafat.

Dinger said he did not know whether Arafat had refused to take a call from Washington. In any event, the spokesman said, the United States is in touch with senior Palestinian officials, and ``we are very confident they are aware of our position.″

A terrorist attack on a cafe in Tel Aviv last Friday killed three Israeli women and injured scores of other people. The State Department responded by urging the Palestinian Authority to send a clear signal to militants they should not take violent actions.

Department officials also called for a resumption of negotiations, but they did not back Netanyahu’s proposal for a summit meeting with Arafat.

Spokesman Dinger said it was up to the parties to decide whether and where to negotiate. And both sides, he said, should restore trust and confidence so talks could be held profitably.

``The Palestinian Authority has to make it very clear there is no role for terrorism,″ Dinger said.

The cafe bombing followed a decision by Netanyahu and the Israeli Cabinet to break ground for a new housing complex for Jews in east Jerusalem, where Arafat intends to set up a capital for a Palestinian state.

In response to a question, Dinger implicitly criticized Jordan for permitting Hamas, the Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv blast, to maintain offices in Amman.

Two days before the attack, Hamas, from the Jordanian capital, urged suicide attacks against Israel.

``We abhor terrorism any place and believe terrorism should not be tolerated and no quarter should be given to terrorists,″ Dinger said.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, expelled senior Hamas leaders in the past for making inflammatory statements against Israel.

King Hussein is due here Tuesday to meet with President Clinton.

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