Powell to Meet With Arafat Sunday
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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Struggling to salvage his peace mission, Secretary of State Colin Powell will press Yasser Arafat when they meet Sunday to take ``effective action″ to end Palestinian attacks against Israel. Powell also is calling for restraint by Israeli forces on the West Bank.
Acting on the Palestinian leader’s denunciation of terror in a statement the White House demanded, Powell rescheduled Saturday’s postponed meeting with Arafat and other senior Palestinians in Ramallah.
The statement contained ``a number of interesting and positive elements,″ including condemnation of terror and a Jerusalem bombing on Friday, as well as reaffirmation of a Palestinian commitment to a negotiated peace with Israel, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Also, the statement called for immediate implementation of a shelved cease-fire plan prepared by CIA Director George Tenet, Boucher said.
``The secretary will work with Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian leadership to show leadership and to help make these statements a reality, with effective action to bring an end to terror and violence and an early resumption of a political process,″ Boucher said.
Powell consulted by telephone with King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and European officials before deciding to go ahead with the meeting.
In what appeared to be synchronized diplomacy, Powell said Israeli troops must refrain from ``excessive use of force,″ and singled out Jenin, the embattled Palestinian town, for special concern.
``We are particularly concerned at the humanitarian situation,″ Powell said of Israeli operations in Jenin that Palestinian and outside observers have condemned as heavy-handed.
Arafat responded with his statement denouncing terrorism. It was the kind of statement President Bush was looking for so Powell could go ahead with the meeting in Ramallah, where the Palestinian leader has been confined in his office by Israeli troops.
The statement condemned the Jerusalem bombing, which killed six people and injured scores and prompted Powell to put off his meeting with Arafat.
``We are condemning strongly all the attacks which are targeting civilians from both sides and especially the attack that took place against Israeli citizens yesterday in Jerusalem,″ the statement said.
But Arafat also lashed out at Israel’s West Bank operation: ``We also condemn very strongly the massacre that was committed by the Israeli occupation troops against our refugees in Jenin and against our people in Ramallah, Nablus and Tulkarem and also the brutal aggression against the church in Bethlehem during the last two weeks.″
Israeli forces moved into more West Bank villages Saturday and arrested 40 suspected militants. Several Israeli tanks shelled the Palestinian government complex in Nablus.
Arafat’s statement, in Arabic, was distributed by the Palestinian news service WAFA and was read several times on Palestinian television and radio, giving it the circulation the Bush administration wanted.
The Israeli government dismissed the statement and noted that the suicide bomber that struck Friday was sent by Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia linked to Arafat’s Fatah movement.
``We want deeds, not words,″ said Danny Ayalon, foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. ``We cannot be impressed by any condemnation of their doings and their own strategies, which continue.″
Boucher declined to make a judgment on Powell’s chances of securing a cease-fire and steering the two sides to peacemaking and a Palestinian state. ``I am sure as we go along we will look to both sides to fulfill the pledges they made,″ he said.
It was disclosed that U.S. mediator Anthony Zinni had met Friday in Jericho with Palestinian officials.
Earlier Saturday, Powell issued a statement calling on Israeli forces in the West Bank to ``exercise the utmost restraint and discipline and refrain from the excessive use of force.″
Sharon has not complied with Bush’s call for a swift withdrawal. Powell, too, has been unable to persuade Sharon to provide a timetable for removing troops from Palestinian cities and towns.
A top Arafat aide, Hassan Abdel Rahman, said in Washington that Arafat wanted to cooperate with Powell, but also needed to hear from the administration a condemnation of Israeli military’s actions against Palestinian civilians.
Powell met with Christian religious leaders and aid workers while awaiting Arafat’s response.
Rene Kosirnik, head of the Red Cross delegation to Israel, said Israeli forces on the West Bank were subjecting the Palestinian people to ``collective punishment.″
``The whole population should not suffer so much,″ he said.
Kosirnik singled out the refugee camps near Jenin, saying conditions were especially bad and that Israel was denying access to the Red Cross.
Richard Cook, West Bank field director for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said dead bodies were piling up.
Following his meeting with five officials of U.N. and Red Cross aid groups, Powell announced the United States will contribute an additional $30 million for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency on top of the $80 million already contributed annually.
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the administration is providing $62 million in assistance for health care, water system repairs and emergency food aid, Powell said.
``We call upon the international community to do all it can to help at this time of exceptional Palestinian need,″ he said.