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Powell, Arafat Discuss Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - 2002-04-14

Secretary of State Colin Powell is meeting Sunday with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his besieged headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Mr. Powell, agreed to the talks which were postponed for one day, after Mr. Arafat issued a statement condemning terrorism.

Mr. Arafat's statement against terrorism had been a condition set down by Mr. Powell before the meeting could go ahead.

Mr. Powell is demanding that Mr. Arafat transform his assurances into effective action to prevent more Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

The Secretary of State postponed the meeting for one day after a Palestinian woman suicide bomber killed six Israelis and herself in Jerusalem on Friday. Mr. Powell was flown over the scene of the bombing in an Israeli helicopter, in order to view the carnage first-hand.

Mr. Arafat issued a statement in Arabic condemning all terrorist attacks, including the one on Friday. Israel has rejected the Palestinian leader's denunciation of terrorism as worthless, saying it wants deeds and not words. But Mr. Arafat's advisors claim that it is Israel, which is provoking more Palestinian attacks with its military offensive against the West Bank. The Palestinian leader is demanding that Israel pull its troops back from all Palestinian self-rule areas.

Secretary of State Powell has issued a statement expressing concern over the humanitarian situation faced by Palestinians as a result of the Israeli army's actions. But he has so far failed to convince the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to end his country's military actions in the West Bank.

Mr. Sharon says the Israeli army's offensive will continue until it has smashed what he calls the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.