Powell blames Palestinian violence for decision to recall envoy trying to arrange cease-fire

Sunday, December 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday blamed Palestinian violence for U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni's departure from the region after three weeks of efforts to arrange a cease-fire.

``We sent General Zinni over to try to get that dialogue going, and all of that was blown up by these terrorist organizations on the Palestinian side,'' Powell said.

Fresh violence stalled early progress in the peace process made by Zinni, who was told Saturday to return to Washington, Powell said.

``Hamas, a terrorist organization, started killing innocent civilians with car bombs in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere. And they attacked this process; they attacked innocent Israelis,'' Powell said on ``Fox News Sunday.''

``But even more fundamentally and troubling, they attacked Yasser Arafat and his authority to lead the Palestinian people toward a cease-fire and a process of peace.''

Zinni's mission was accompanied by a surge in attacks by Islamic militants on Israelis, followed by Israeli reprisals in which more than 60 Palestinians and 40 Israelis were killed.

Nonetheless, Powell said: ``Right now, I don't want to lose hope. The Zinni mission has not failed. The parties have failed. Zinni went to help them, and they were not ready ... to be helped at this point.''

Zinni is to consult with President Bush and Powell about the situation _ meetings that Powell said always were planned.

``We are not disengaging and his mission is not ended,'' Powell said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

``He is still our special envoy for that purpose. And he will do whatever it takes,'' Powell said. Zinni will return ``when circumstances suggest that there is a real reason for him to go back.''

He called on the Palestinian leader to end the violence and said those responsible for it ``are attacking Mr. Arafat just as surely as they are attacking the people of Israel or the state of Israel, and Mr. Arafat has to act against them.''

While finding fault with both sides, Powell specifically pointed to the Palestinians' inability to get a handle on the violence.

``If violence gets under control, gets down to zero or as near zero as you can make it ... then I think you will get a response from the Israeli side and we can start to move forward,'' Powell said.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice was sharply critical of Arafat.

``We're asking him to lead his people rather than continuing to carry out and deal in behaviors that are making the situation impossible to achieve peace,'' she said on CBS' ``Face the Nation.'' ``We think there is an awful lot he needs to do (and) he needs to do it quickly, because the chances for peace will slip away if he doesn't act quickly.''

Asked about Arafat's future if he is unable to crack down, Powell said: ``I think the consequence for him is that he will slowly lose authority within the region.'' The United States, he said, ``will be examining all of our options of how we deal with him.''

Zinni's efforts were complicated when the Israeli government said Wednesday it was severing contacts with Arafat. Zinni then suspended talks with the two sides to appeal directly to Arab leaders to intervene with Arafat.