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Arafat Urged to Find Those Responsible for Bombings - 2001-12-02

President Bush says the latest suicide bombings in Israel are horrific acts of murder, and he is calling on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to arrest those responsible. The need for action on the part of the Palestinians was the focus of an emergency meeting at the White House between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

They were supposed to meet on Monday to talk about the search for Middle East peace. Instead, the prime minister cut short his visit to the United States, and came to the White House a day early, amid a sense of urgency.

A weekend of suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa left blood on the streets of Israel and a question mark over the peace process.

Moments before he was to confer with Mr. Sharon, President Bush went before television cameras to condemn the violence, and urge action on the part of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasser Arafat.

"This is a moment where the advocates for peace in the Middle East must rise up and fight terror," he said. "Chairman Arafat must do everything in his power to find those who murdered innocent Israelis and bring them to justice."

Mr. Bush said the suicide bombers who killed dozens and wounded hundreds wanted to disrupt the peace process. He said they would not succeed.

"We must not allow terror to destroy the chance of peace in the Middle East," he said.

But a White House spokesman later acknowledged it is unlikely the Israelis will go back to the negotiating table before the Palestinian Authority takes decisive action. Sean McCormick said the hour-long meeting between Prime Minister Sharon and President Bush focused on the need for Yasser Arafat to immediately arrest those responsible, and rein in militant groups.

Neither the president nor the prime minister made any public comments after the talks. And while other Israeli officials hinted at retaliatory action, Mr. McCormick would not say if Mr. Bush urged Ariel Sharon to hold his fire against the Palestinians.

The White House spokesman said the best guidance on the subject came from Secretary of State Colin Powell. During an appearance Sunday on the CBS television news program "Face The Nation," Mr. Powell said the United States cannot tell the democratically elected government of Israel what to do. "We always say to both sides, 'You had better think about the consequences of what happens the next day, or the day after, will your actions make things better or actions make things worse?'," he said.

The secretary of state said he talked to Yasser Arafat Saturday night after the suicide bombings in Jerusalem. He said the Palestinian leader acknowledged that the attacks on Israel were also attacks on his authority.