Tags: U.S. | May | Cut | Ties | Arafat

U.S. May Cut Ties to Arafat

Friday, 25 January 2002 12:00 AM

A U.S. official Thursday said the status of the U.S.-Palestinian relationship has come under review following the recent seizure by the Israeli Navy of a Palestinian cargo ship in the Red Sea carrying advanced weapons Israel said were intended for the Palestinian Authority.

Weapons found in the Palestinian-registered ship are barred to the Palestinian government of the West Bank and Gaza according to the terms of the Oslo Agreement. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has denied that they were being delivered to the Palestinian Authority, but the U.S. official told United Press International, "There have been a series of meetings at the interagency level."

This source said one option was to cut off aid to Palestinian organizations. Though the Palestinian Authority does not receive any direct funding from the United States, in 2000 Washington gave $485 million to Palestinian organizations unaffiliated with the provisional government for water projects, political reforms, small credit loan programs and health care.

In 2001, the aid figure dropped to $84.8 million and, in 2002, $75 million has been set aside for such projects.

U.S. sources say another option under consideration has been the temporary closure of Palestinian Liberation Organization offices in Washington. In 1996, the Clinton administration shut down the PLO offices after it was discovered that Palestinian officials were still operating in the space after being told to leave.

The president's top foreign policy advisers, including Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, discussed the status of the U.S.- Palestinian relationship Thursday, according to U.S. officials. However, no policy decisions were made as a result of the meeting.

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher would not comment Thursday on the proposed options, first reported in Thursday's editions of Israel's largest daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He did say, however, "We continue to call upon Chairman Arafat to take action against those who are smuggling arms, to account for the actions of the Palestinian Authority in the matter, and -- to ensure that those who would disrupt the peace process are not able to carry out their actions -- to dismantle the terrorist networks."

While Arafat, responding to U.S. and international pressure, has made some arrests and closed some weapons factories, violence persists. A man from the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a wing of Arafat's faction, Fatah, injured dozens of Israelis in West Jerusalem Tuesday when he sprayed a busy corner with machine gun fire.

Meanwhile, Boucher would not criticize Israeli actions Thursday. When asked about the recent Israeli incursions near Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, he said, "I would say that we understand Israel's need to take steps to ensure its security. I think we've been very clear that the focus needs to be on Palestinian action against violence and terror."

This represents a shift in attitude from Secretary of State Colin Powell's expressions of concern for the plight of the Palestinians on Nov. 19 at a speech at the University of Louisville.

"The overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have grown up with checkpoints and raids and indignities," Powell said at the time. "Too often they have seen their schools shuttered and their parents humiliated. Palestinians need security as well. Too many innocent Palestinians, including children, have been killed and wounded. This, too, must stop."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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A U.S. official Thursday said the status of the U.S.-Palestinian relationship has come under review following the recent seizure by the Israeli Navy of a Palestinian cargo ship in the Red Sea carrying advanced weapons Israel said were intended for the Palestinian...
U.S.,May,Cut,Ties,Arafat
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2002-00-25
Friday, 25 January 2002 12:00 AM
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