White House national security advisor: current Palestinian leadership not appropriate
U.S. President George W. Bush will hear out Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when the two confer this week but will seek to assure him the United States is bringing new force to bear on the Palestinians as partners in Middle East peace-making, a top adviser said on Sunday.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. administration had not seen but would examine documents Sharon is reportedly bringing with him to prove Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's connections to financing “terror,” and would consider the evidence.
The New York Times reported on Sunday Sharon would try to discredit Arafat based on documents Israel has seized in raids on the West Bank. The Israeli government released Sunday a 100-page intelligence report alleging that Arafat masterminded and financed a wave of suicide attacks against the Jewish state.
The report charges that Arafat's Palestinian Authority used European Union funds to finance about 500 activists responsible for waging the attacks.
"Arafat and his close aides are directly responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Israeli citizens," said Israeli minister without portfolio Dani Naveh, who compiled the study from documents reportedly seized by Israeli intelligence officers during the month-long West Bank campaign.
Similar Israeli allegations have been dismissed by the Palestinians, who had said they were based on forged or mistranslated documents.
However, Rice, appearing on the "Fox News Sunday" program in advance of Sharon's meeting with Bush on Tuesday, said "we are not going to try to choose the leadership for the Palestinian people. Chairman Arafat is there ... but he does have responsibilities that he has not been meeting and we are going to press him."
"We are going to call on Arab allies, the Europeans and others to press him and we are going to be very clear that the Palestinian leadership that is there now, the Authority, is not the kind of leadership that can lead to the kind of Palestinian state that we need," Rice said. "It has got to reform."
She said Bush planned to assure Sharon that the United States would pressure the Palestinian Authority to take significant steps to stay at the peace table.
"The Palestinian Authority has certain responsibilities. We are going to take a new approach, including bringing, we hope, greater accountability and pressure from the Arab states on the Palestinian Authority to do what it needs to do," she said.
Besides what she hailed as a "new more active role" taken by Saudi Arabia after Bush's recent meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah, Rice said increased involvement by Egypt and Jordan "gives us a very powerful Arab, Israeli neighbors presence in the peace negotiations that has not been here before."
Rice said the European Union and others would also step up their demands on Arafat but would not say whether such pressure would include threats to cut off financial assistance.
She added setting a specific timetable for tackling the most difficult of the issues between the two sides, including contentious Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas, would not be productive at this time.
"We are not going to get ahead of ourselves," Rice said. "We are going to look at where we are. We are going to talk to the prime minister about what he has in mind and then we'll see what the next steps are."
Specifically, Rice said the Palestinian leadership must be "democratic, transparent and non-corrupt ... what we ask of every government in the world. And we are going to start demanding (that) of the Palestinian leadership."
Appearing on another program, Secretary of State Colin Powell said officials were ready to listen to Sharon's proposals but stressed that "something has to be done" about Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
"Settlements continue to grow and continue to expand.... It is not going to go away as a problem, as an issue. I'm sure this will be part of our discussions with the prime minister," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Powell was also skeptical of the idea of a "security fence" between Israeli and Palestinian areas.
"I don't know if you're going to solve the problem with a fence unless you're solving the underlying problems of the Palestinians feeling disenfranchised," he said. (Albawaba.com)
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