WASHINGTON ø The United States has decided to send a mid-level
representative to the funeral of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser
Officials said President George Bush has agreed to U.S. representation
at Arafat's funeral. They said the State Department was granted authority to
decide who would be sent to the funeral, expected to take place in Cairo on
"There will probably be a mid-level representative at Arafat's funeral,"
a State Department official said. "The official could be Assistant Secretary
State William Burns."
Since 2001, Burns has been responsible for the State Department's policy
on the Middle East. He has not met Arafat during most of Bush's first term
office, Middle East Newsline reported.
U.S. government analysts have regarded Arafat as the main financier of
the Palestinian insurgency against Israel, which led to the killing of at
least a dozen Americans, including U.S. embassy personnel. But over the last
decade Arafat has not been cited as a terrorist or terrorist financier by
the United States.
"The death of Yasser Arafat is a significant moment in Palestinian
history," a White House statement said. "For the Palestinian people, we hope
that the future will bring peace and the fulfillment of their aspirations
for an independent, democratic Palestine that is at peace with its
Officials said National Security Council analysts recommended that Bush
limit U.S. representation at Arafat's funeral to the level of ambassador. On
the other hand, the State Department was said to have urged Secretary of
State Colin Powell to consider accepting an invitation to the funeral.
Powell was urged by PA International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath
to attend Arafat's funeral, officials said. They quoted Powell as replying
that the issue would be examined.
Officials said Arafat's death could spark renewed attacks against U.S.
interests in the Middle East. On Thursday, the State Department issued an
advisory for U.S. nationals in the Middle East to take precautions.
So far, the State Department has not said who would represent the United
at Arafat's funeral. But department spokesman Richard Boucher did not deny
that a U.S. envoy would attend.
"I don't think we know exactly what arrangements will be made and
therefore, we can't decide who might represent the United States," Boucher
said on Wednesday before the announcement of Arafat's death. "But I'm
certain that we'll express ourselves appropriately at the time."