Bush Forwards Clear Message to Sharon: Withdrawal Should Start Immediately
U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday Mideast peace would require leadership by both sides.
"The United States is firmly committed to achieving peace," he said. "I meant what I said about withdrawal without delay, and I mean what I say when I call upon the Arab world to strongly condemn against terrorist activities."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush conferred Monday with Powell. In a related development, U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Monday afternoon to deliver what the White House said was a message from President Bush to end a West Bank offensive.
A spokesman for Sharon confirmed the meeting had taken place at the prime minister's office but gave no details.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said earlier in Washington that Zinni would "deliver the message that the president meant it -- they need to begin to withdraw now."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after meeting Monday with Morocco's King Mohammed VI, demanded "a clear statement from Israel that they are beginning to withdraw" from Palestinian territories and "to do it now."
Powell said he had asked the king to counsel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to halt violence against Israelis. The secretary said he hopes to see Arafat later in the week, AP reported.
Israel's military presence on the West Bank is having "a significant and severe" impact, Powell declared. "We have a very difficult situation in front of us. ... We want to see this operation brought to an end as soon as possible."
King Mohammed, the first leader to meet with Powell as the secretary began a trip aimed at halting the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, assured Powell that Morocco would be ready to act on a land-for-peace proposal "without any prior conditions" as soon as Israeli troops withdraw from the West Bank.
The Moroccan monarch urged Powell to spare no effort in seeking withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and suggested he should be focusing on putting more pressure on Israel.
"Don't you think it was more important to go to Jerusalem first?" the king asked Powell during a photo session. Powell told Mohammed "we considered all options" but he wanted to go to Spain Wednesday to meet with European ministers before going to Jerusalem to hold talks with both Israelis and Palestinians.
After their meeting, Powell told reporters: "We are hoping, as the Israelis said in statements yesterday, that we will begin to see withdrawals from Palestinian cities."
He acknowledged Israel's right to self-defense, adding, "But Israel also has to take into account the implication of its actions."
The royal palace said in a statement Mohammed reiterated Morocco's "total condemnation of the deliberate Israeli military invasion" of Palestinian territories and "adamantly denounced the siege imposed on President Arafat and his collaborators."
The king, speaking in English during a photo session, told Powell, who is seeking Arab help to end the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in decades, "I wish you luck, because it is going to be difficult." Powell nodded his head slightly and acknowledged, "It is going to be difficult." Powell also was meeting in Morocco with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. (Albawaba.com)
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