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Bush Gives PLA Smuggling Evidence

January 25, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush provided three Arab key leaders with evidence Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority was involved in trying to smuggle 50 tons of weapons to the Palestinians, a senior administration official said Thursday.

The weapons were intercepted by Israeli commandos in the Red Sea, and Israeli security officials informed the United States the arms were designed to be used in terror raids against Israeli civilians.

Bush provided the evidence in letters to the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, all considered moderate Arab nations with close ties to the United States. He also asked the leaders’ help in persuading Arafat to make more arrests connected to the smuggling and to combat terrorism generally. The official didn’t describe the evidence.

The Palestinian Authority, under U.S. urging, has detained several suspects. But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher repeated on Thursday that Arafat had neither provided an explanation of the smuggling nor arrested the key figures.

Israel’s account, given to the administration by top security officials who came to Washington, had Arafat directly involved and said Iran supplied the weapons and the ship was loaded at an Iranian port.

While Arafat has denied any role, Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly has demanded an explanation from him. At the same time, Powell has said he has seen no evidence against the Palestinian leader.

Dispatch of Bush’s letter, first reported Thursday evening by CBS News, surfaced as the administration again turned up the heat on Arafat.

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