Powell says pressure building on Arafat to control Palestinian terrorists

Tuesday, December 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ International pressure is building on Yasser Arafat to deal more forcefully to control Palestinian terrorist groups after a rash of suicide bombings in Israel, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday.

``He needs to do a lot more than we've seen so far,'' Powell said at a 55-nation conference on anti-terrorism that focused on the international response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

In Washington, Israeli Ambassador David Ivry said Arafat must arrest terrorist suspects listed by the United States. He said the Palestinians detained by the Palestinian Authority were ``third-echelon people.''

Ivry also hardened Israel's terms for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians. He said an offer to talk once there was a weeklong suspension of violence was ``off the table.''

``The question is whether Arafat is going to start fighting terror,'' Ivry said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Of retaliatory strikes launched by Israeli forces on Monday and Tuesday, Powell said that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ``is responding in a way that he believes is appropriate to defend his people and to defend his country.''

Still, Powell added at a news conference that as the current violence escalates in ``action and counteraction,'' both sides need to remember ``sooner or later you have to find a way to move forward.''

``We have to get back to a process that will lead to a cease-fire,'' Powell said.

European and Arab nations alike are ratcheting up pressure on Arafat, Powell said ahead of a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the sidelines of the conference.

In an earlier session with reporters aboard his plane, Powell said Arafat must ``use all of his influence, all of his authority, all of his prestige, to bring these terrorist elements under control.''

At the meeting with Peres, Powell told the Israeli official that U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni will stay in the area, despite new outbreaks of violence that have dimmed peace hopes, a senior administration official said. Some Israelis in Jerusalem had shouted for Zinni to go home as he toured sites of Saturday's suicide bombings.

Powell also emphasized that, while the United States believes Israel has a right to defend itself, it should consider only what is necessary to prevent a further escalation of tensions, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Separately, Peres told reporters that Israel's retaliatory strikes ``were against material, not property.''

Even though some of the strikes were near Arafat's headquarters, the Palestinian leader himself was not a target, Peres said. ``I do not think there will be action against Mr. Arafat.''

Israeli strikes were ``more of a warning than a punishment,'' he added. ``We don't intend to bring down the Palestinian Authority.''

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, speaking before Powell arrived for talks in Ankara Tuesday, urged prompt U.S. intervention to prevent a war in the Middle East. Ecevit described the latest Israeli strikes following suicide bombings as ``unjust actions against the Palestinian Authority's territory.''

``Every country has the right to self defense, but Israel and Palestine are a special case,'' Ecevit said. ``There are two distinct states about to be formed, but militant circles in both sides are continuously jeopardizing the possibility of an agreement.''

Turkey, the first Muslim country to commit combat troops to Afghanistan, also said it opposes spreading the U.S.-led campaign to Iraq.

The recent terrorist attacks in the Middle East shared the spotlight with the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan at the meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The organization passed a resolution asserting that its members ``will not yield to terrorist threats, but will combat them by all means. ...''

``This will require a long and sustained effort,'' it declared.

The organization includes all the nations of Europe, the United States, Canada and all the former Soviet republics. It was Powell's first stop on an eight-day, 10-nation trip to Europe and central Asia.

Powell told the gathering, ``Terrorists ... want to destroy the future that we are trying to build together.''

The role member nations will play in a post-Taliban Afghanistan was a key item of discussion, participants said.

Powell said that, while many nations had offered troops, the United States believes such forces are still premature _ either in a combat or peacekeeping role.

``Some of our allies are a little frustrated they didn't get into the battle right away,'' Powell said.

Earlier, in his remarks aboard his plane, Powell said it is unrealistic to think that an international force could come in and guarantee ``that every road is safe.''

``This is not a little place like Bosnia or Kosovo. We're talking Texas. And that would take an awful lot of troops. That isn't going to happen,'' Powell said.