Tags: Bush | Slams | Arafat | for | Not | Fighting | Terrorism

Bush Slams Arafat for Not Fighting Terrorism

Monday, 28 January 2002 12:00 AM

Criticism of Arafat by the Bush administration has mounted since the Israelis intercepted a cargo ship earlier this month carrying more than 50 tons of advanced weapons Tel Aviv said were destined for the Palestinian Authority.

"When the ship showed up with weapons obviously aimed at terrorizing that part of the world, I expressed my severe disappointment because I was led to believe that [Arafat] was willing to join us in the fight on terror," Bush said.

The president made his comment after meeting Hamid Karzai, leader of the interim Afghan administration, who is visiting Washington this week. Karzai took office on Dec 22. The warmth of his reception for Karzai offered a contrast to Bush's view of Arafat.

For example, whereas Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has met with Bush in Washington, the president has yet to invite Arafat to the White House.

In an interview Monday, the top representative for the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hassan Abdel Rahman, conceded that U.S.-Palestinian relations had soured.

"We understand that our relationship with the United States is going through a rough time. We hope we would be able to put those difficulties behind us and restore the confidence between us," he said. Since the Israelis seized the Karine A on Jan. 3 in the Red Sea, Israel has said, and some U.S. officials have confirmed, the arms were meant for the Palestinian Authority, and cited Iran as the supplier. Arafat has denied knowledge of the arms shipment.

The extent of the administration's alienation from Arafat is reflected in remarks by retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to Jewish lobbyists for American Israel Public Affairs Committee over the weekend. Zinni was dispatched last to the region in November to repair and revive peace talks.

He has been perceived by some observers as sympathetic to the Arab view on the conflict. But speaking to AIPAC he likened Arafat to a Mafia boss.

But the president's words on Monday may have the largest effect on the looming debate within the administration on the future of U.S.-Palestinian relations. Washington still considers the Palestinian Authority a partner in the Middle East "peace process," not a terror group, but U.S. officials have weighed options in reassessing that relationship.

The State Department, meanwhile, has pressed Arafat to close weapons and bomb-making facilities inside the territories, arrest the top lieutenants involved in the Karine A affair and the killing of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi last year, and calm incitement.

Behind the scenes, Secretary of State Colin Powell has asked European heads of state not to invite Arafat to their capitals while he works to control terror at home. Also, the State Department since summer has pressed the European Union to investigate whether the funding it provides to the Palestinian Authority does not go for further terror.

However, a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels Monday issued a statement confirming Arafat as the Palestinian interlocutor in the stalled "peace process." So far, Arafat has arrested only one person associated with Karine A, Fuad al-Shibaki, a mid-level Palestinian official. One State Department official told UPI Monday that the United States was looking for arrests to go far higher in the Palestinian Authority. Also, Arafat has detained the leader of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, over protests from that organization. PFLP claimed blame for the Zeevi assassination.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Criticism of Arafat by the Bush administration has mounted since the Israelis intercepted a cargo ship earlier this month carrying more than 50 tons of advanced weapons Tel Aviv said were destined for the Palestinian Authority. When the ship showed up with weapons...
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2002-00-28
Monday, 28 January 2002 12:00 AM
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