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White House Clarifies Cheney Remarks On Israeli Assassination Policy - 2001-08-04

The White House says Vice President Dick Cheney does not support Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinians it considers a security threat. The assurance comes a day after Mr. Cheney made televised comments appearing to suggest "some justification" for Israel's actions.

White House spokesman Ari Fleishcer says the Vice President was not suggesting that Israel is justified in its assassination policy. Instead, Mr. Fleischer says Mr. Cheney was saying that both Israel and the Palestinians find ways to justify continuing violence.

"The Vice President, the President and Secretary of State are all in unison about the need to stop the violence in Israel, and what the Vice President was reflecting on, and when I say violence in Israel that includes the region, what the Vice President was reflecting on is how both parties see justification in the actions they take," he said. "It is the policy of the United States to oppose these killings."

Mr. Cheney's comments in an American television interview drew sharp criticism from Palestinian leaders who say the Vice President is encouraging Israel to continue its attacks. An Israeli helicopter raid in the West Bank town of Nablus Tuesday killed six Hamas militants and two young boys. Tens of thousands of Palestinians marched in a mass funeral the following day calling for more attacks against Israel.

Mr. Fleischer says the Vice President made it clear he favors both Israelis and Palestinians returning to a cease-fire and stopping the violence. "He said clearly himself that it would be preferable if they could work with the Palestinians, the Palestinian authorities of whatever stripe could be headed-off, imprisoned, and tried rather than having them actually assassinated," he said. "So I think he is clearly stating his preferences."

In the television interview, Mr. Cheney said that, if there is hard evidence of someone planning a suicide bomb attack, for example, Israel would have "some justification in their trying to protect themselves by pre-empting."