Powell seeks allied pressure on Abbas, Arafat to stop Hamas

Friday, August 22, 2003

The United States has appealed to Arab allies to persuade the Palestinian Authority and Islamic insurgency groups to resume a truce with Israel.

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Colin Powell has been in contact with leaders in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in an effort to pressure the Palestinian insurgency groups to renew their commitment to a truce with Israel. The insurgency groups have declared an end to a planned three-month ceasefire and pledged to renew attacks against Israel.

Officials said Powell has been alarmed by the prospect that the Abbas government will collapse amid fear to confront Islamic insurgency groups, Middle East Newsline reported.

They said Abbas and PA Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan have said they cannot act against Hamas and Jihad without the participation of the security services directly led by Arafat.

"I call on members of the international community and members of the Arab nations to step up now and insist that the terror perpetrated by organizations such as Hamas must come to an end," Powell said on Thursday.

The appeal came in wake of a Hamas suicide strike that killed 19 passengers aboard an Israeli bus in Jerusalem on late Tuesday. Israel responded by assassinating a Hamas leader.

Officials said Bush administration has also asked Arab allies to press PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to crack down on insurgency groups. They said both men have refused to implement their pledge to raid insurgency strongholds in the Gaza Strip.

On late Thursday, Arafat received a telephone call from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was said to have ordered his aide, Osama El Baz, to Israel and the PA as part of efforts to end the latest escalation in violence.

For the last year, Egypt has been holding talks with Palestinian insurgency groups to achieve a truce in the nearly three-year war with Israel. Saudi Arabia has been identified as a leading supporter of Hamas. Jordan has helped train PA security forces.

Powell appealed to Arafat to cooperate with Abbas in any confrontation with Hamas and Jihad. The appeal came after more than a year of a U.S. policy to boycott the PA chairman.

"I call on Chairman Arafat," Powell said, "to work with Prime Minister Abbas and to make available to Prime Minister Abbas those security elements that are under his control so that they can allow progress to be made on the roadmap, end terror, end this violence that just results in the further repetition of the cycle that we've seen so often."

Officials said Powell's appeal to the PA chairman was also meant as a warning to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the Bush administration was prepared to resume cooperation with Arafat to prevent a collapse of U.S. plans to establish a Palestinian state with interim borders by the end of the year. They said Arafat has gained renewed importance amid the prospect that Abbas and his government might resign.

"Israel has a right to defend herself," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "But they need to take into account the effect of their actions."

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