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Cheney Urges Maximum Anti-Terror Effort By Arafat - 2002-03-18


U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney is calling on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to reject the use of violence as a political weapon and to make a maximum effort to stop terrorism. Mr. Cheney made the remarks shortly after arriving in Israel as part of his 11 nation trip to the Middle East.

Vice-President Cheney says the United States is committed to ending "the terror and violence" that have plagued the Middle East for nearly 18 months.

He says America wants "to build confidence between Israelis and Palestinians that peace is not only possible, but necessary, and to resume a political process" to end the conflict.

Mr. Cheney called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to make every effort to stop the bloodshed. "We continue to call upon Chairman Arafat to live up to his commitment to renounce, once and for all, the use of violence as a political weapon, and to exert a 100 percent effort to stamp out terrorism," he said. "Only then can an atmosphere be created that is conducive to achieving the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to live safely and in dignity in their own state, alongside Israel."

Mr. Cheney says he will also urge Israeli leaders to ease the economic suffering of the Palestinians. "I will be talking to Prime Minister Sharon about the steps that Israel can take to alleviate the devastating economic hardship being experienced by innocent Palestinian men, women and children."

Palestinian officials are expressing anger that Vice-President Cheney has not scheduled a meeting with Mr. Arafat.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says no Palestinian officials will meet with Mr. Cheney during his visit, unless the vice president meets with Mr. Arafat first.

U.S. officials say Mr. Cheney has set aside time to talk with the Palestinians, although no specific meetings have been scheduled.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dominating Mr. Cheney's talks during his Middle East tour, although the original focus was the U.S.-led war on international terrorism and charges that Iraq is trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

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