Powell Says Still Can’t Directly Link Arafat To Karine A; Arafat Takes Responsibility, Promises To Attend Arab Summit
The United States cannot prove that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat personally ordered or knew about the shipment of Iranian arms seized by Israel, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday, according to AFP.
The Secretary of State told the House of Representatives International Relations committee that the Palestinian Authority must take responsibility for the shipment found on a ship intercepted in the Red Sea by Israel early last month.
However, "I cannot tie it directly to Chairman Arafat on the basis of the information that is available to me," Powell said.
"It's certainly a case where he should have known, and may well have known, I just can't prove that he did know, or had direct control over the operation," said Powell.
"But it's close enough that the Authority has to take responsibility for it."
Israel has accused Yasser Arafat of having a direct role in the 50 tons arms shipment discovered on the Karine A ship, on January 3.
Last month, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said that US officials had seen direct evidence that linked Yasser Arafat to the arms shipment, but Powell's remarks Wednesday appeared to fall somewhat short of Cheney’s statement.
Both Iran and the Palestinian Authority have denied any knowledge of the ship operation and Arafat has set up a commission of inquiry into the affair.
Powell's comments come on the eve of a visit to the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Meanwhile, Arafat has sent U.S. President George Bush a message stating that he took personal responsibility for the Karine A weapons ship affair, according to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat on Wednesday.
President Arafat also specified the actions the Palestinian Authority has taken against those involved in the affair, the paper said.
According to the newspaper article, Arafat wrote that he did not know about the arms ship, but that as the Palestinian Authority leader, he took responsibility for the affair. He promised Bush that the Palestinian Authority would take action against those responsible for purchasing the ship and the weapons.
The Al Hayat article quoted sources in Washington saying that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had called upon the Palestinian delegation visiting the United States to take action not only against “terror” organizations operating in the Palestinian Authority, but also against "terrorist elements" under Arafat's personal control, meaning Fatah and Tanzim.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, facing United States and Israeli charges of not doing enough to put an end to attacks on Israeli civilians, said that even Washington can not stop all acts of terror, in a Television interview broadcast Wednesday, according to AFP.
Arafat insisted he had done all he could to stop the violence.
"No one can get 100 percent results," he said. "Even the American administration cannot get 100 percent results."
Arafat said it was difficult for him to take action while the Palestinians were under siege. When asked if he thought he was "a viable leader for the Palestinian people," in view of his growing isolation, Arafat replied, "Not to forget, I have been elected President of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). I have been elected, of course, and, from the Palestinian people."
When reminded that elections in the Palestinian self-rule areas were held six years ago, Arafat said, "It seems that you are asking me this question for me. You have to understand to whom you are speaking. You are speaking with Arafat, Yasser Arafat”.
"I don't care for myself. I am caring for my people, who are under occupation. The only people under occupation in the whole world now."
In another interview Arafat said he would attend the March Arab summit in Lebanon, according to AFP.
"God-willing, I will attend the Beirut summit," Arafat said in an interview with the UAE daily Al-Ittihad and the Egyptian weekly Al-Mussawar.
The Palestinian leader said Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Morocco's King Mohammad VI were all "exerting efforts" to ensure he would make it to the meeting of the Arab heads of state.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud "is also keen that I should be present at the summit, especially since it will focus on the Palestinian issue," Arafat stated. (Albawaba.com)
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