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White House: Suicide Bombing Will Not Deter Mideast Peace Mission - 2002-04-12


President Bush condemns Friday's bus bombing in Jerusalem. The Bush administration says Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must do more to stop attacks against Israeli civilians.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer condemned the bombing, saying it will not stop U.S. efforts to reach a peace accord. "There are clearly people in the region who want to disrupt Secretary Powell's peace mission, and the president will not be deterred from seeking peace," he said.

Mr. Fleischer again singled-out Mr. Arafat, saying the attack is a reminder that the Palestinian leader must renounce violence. "The president is very troubled by what happened this morning and the president expects Yasser Arafat to denounce this morning's attack, to step-up and show leadership," he said.

State Department officials say Secretary Powell is reconsidering a Saturday meeting with the Palestinan leader. Mr. Fleischer says the president has given the secretary "maximum flexibility" in deciding how best to pursue his mission.

"The president has given flexibility to this mission. It was flexible all along, but the president is very troubled by what happened," he said. "And the president believes that if Yasser Arafat meant what he committed in the Oslo Accords to denounce terrorism, that today would be a particularly apt day for Yasser Arafat to publicly express himself in denunciation of this terrorist attack and to show leadership."

Mr. Fleischer would not say whether Secretary Powell's meeting with Mr. Arafat would be canceled if the Palestinian leader does not denounce Friday's attack.

The White House spokesman says Mr. Arafat has yet to earn the president's trust. In contrast, he says Mr. Bush believes Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.

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