Bush envisions Palestinian state free of terror, but not Arafat

Thursday, February 27, 2003

WASHINGTON President George Bush has outlined a vision for a Palestinian state free of the "outside support for terrorism" after the destruction of the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

But the vision did not include the ouster of the current Palestinian leadership, a longtime demand of the U.S. president. Instead, Bush called for a reform process that will allow Palestinians to choose new leaders.

In an address to the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, Bush envisioned a safer Middle East after the passing of Saddam. He said this could lead to a significant reduction in terrorism and its state sponsors.

At that point, Bush said, the United States could help create conditions that would enable for the establishment of a Palestinian state. He stressed that such a process would be accompanied by what he termed the removal of the terror threat.

Arafat has agreed to a U.S. demand for the appointment of a prime minister. The United States and European Union have insisted that a prime minister would be responsible for daily operations of the Palestinian Authority, while Arafat is relegated to a ceremonial role. Arafat has rejected this stipulation, Middle East Newsline reported.

The president did not reiterate his previous demand that the Palestinian leadership headed by Yasser Arafat be replaced.

"America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of peace," Bush said. "And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity."

The president said an Israeli-Palestinian peace process must be accompanied by an end to Israeli settlement activity in what he termed the "occupied territories." The United States has used this term to define the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.

Bush said the Arab states will be expected to "meet their responsibilities to oppose terrorism, to support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state clearly they will live in peace with Israel.

"Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are working for reform and long for democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders," Bush said. "True leaders who strive for peace; true leaders who faithfully serve the people. A Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful state that abandons forever the use of terror."

"The United States and other nations are working on a road map for peace," Bush said. "We are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. It is the commitment of our government and my personal commitment to implement the road map and to reach that goal."

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