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No Bush-Arafat Meeting Planned in New York

A top advisor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says there are no plans for a meeting with U.S. President George Bush in New York, but adds that direct talks would help the peace process. Saudi officials also criticize Mr. Bush's reluctance to meet with Yasser Arafat.

There was some speculation that President George Bush might meet with Yasser Arafat on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. But National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on Thursday said President Bush would not meet with Mr. Arafat because he does not believe the Palestinian leader has done enough to combat terrorism.

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath rejects setting preconditions and says it is not only up to the Palestinians to end the violence. "I think that, again, shows the folly of a preconditional sequential approach as opposed to the parallel and reciprocal approach," he said. "When you talk about a preconditions approach you are going to the abyss."

Mr. Shaath stresses the need for the United States to intervene to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. "How do we get the two parties to the negotiating table?" he said. "How do we end simultaneously with reciprocity the confrontation on the ground in order to go back to the political table where these matters will have to be strategically sorted out? It seems to be there is no way without a third party at this stage."

Mr. Shaath says the United States, which has positioned itself as the honest broker in the peace process, cannot remain on the sidelines. "I don't understand fully the reason for reticence of the American administration to go as fast as possible to the role it has enunciated so clearly," he said.

Mr. Shaath adamantly rejects Osama bin Laden's efforts to link the Palestinian cause to his calls on Muslims to join in a holy war against the West. Osama bin Laden is a prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

But, Mr. Shaath told a Washington conference that reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that includes Muslims, Christians, and Jews would be the best response to those who are trying to promote a clash of civilization.