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US to Arafat: Crack Down on Militants - 2001-11-05

The U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, says Palestinian President Yasser Arafat needs to do more to crack down on militants, including shutting down some organizations and arresting those responsible for acts of terrorism.

Ambassador Kurtzer told reporters the United States is trying to "be more persuasive" in urging Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to take additional steps to prevent Palestinian groups from engaging in terrorism.

Mr. Kurtzer says Mr. Arafat needs to "make decisions with respect to where he stands on questions relating to terrorism."

"We have had some very serious conversations with him and communications at a very senior level with Chairman Arafat; basically saying that words are not enough to prove that one is against terrorism," he said. "It requires actions. There are now specific actions that the Palestinian Authority will need to take as the result of decisions that we have taken on these groups and I think the challenge now is whether the Palestinian Authority is prepared to take those steps."

Last Friday, senior State Department official David Satterfield called the current Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation "an ongoing process of calculated terror and escalation."

Mr. Satterfield said Mr. Arafat should stop the escalation by cracking down on militant Palestinian groups.

Also Friday, the State Department added Palestinian organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to a U.S. executive order that lists suspected terrorist organizations. The United States can subject these organizations to stringent financial sanctions.

Ambassador Kurtzer says that executive order requires the Palestinian Authority to take specific actions against those groups. "Number one is to act against the organizations themselves, to shut them down, to arrest those who have been responsible for acts of terrorism, to prosecute those people in a fair way," Ambassador Kurtzer. "Secondly, is to maintain vigilance, particularly in the flow of finances and other kinds of support to those organizations."

The United States has been pressing Israel to withdraw its soldiers from Palestinian-ruled areas of the West Bank that Israel raided after an Israeli Cabinet minister was assassinated last month.

Ambassador Kurtzer says that while Israel has the right to self-defense, that right should not be exercised through military incursions into Palestinian-controlled territory.

Asked about the possibility of a new U.S. peace initiative, Mr. Kurtzer says the Bush administration is considering whether to publicly unveil its views as a possible springboard to renewed talks.