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US to Continue Mediation Despite Israel's Split With Arafat - 2001-12-13

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will continue trying to mediate an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, despite the Israeli government's decision to break off contact with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He also again urged Mr. Arafat to act aggressively against Palestinian terror factions.

Mr. Powell says the United States is seeking clarification from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of the practical effect of his decision to sever contact with Mr. Arafat.

But, in the meantime, he says, "the stakes are too high" for the United States to walk away from efforts to end the Middle East fighting, and that U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni's more than two week-old effort get a cease-fire will continue.

In a talk with reporters, the secretary said the burden remains on Mr. Arafat to, as he put it, "get rid of" terrorist factions staging anti-Israeli attacks from areas under his control, saying they pose a greater threat to Palestinian aspirations than does Israel itself.

"Hamas, for example is killing innocent Israeli citizens. But it will not destroy Israel. It might destroy Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority," he said. "So Mr. Arafat has a choice to make. He's got to go after these organizations who are ignoring the possibility of peace, who are ignoring the Mitchell peace plan, who are ignoring the efforts of the international community to help the two sides find a way to the Mitchell plan. And they are a threat to everything we are trying to do."

A senior official here said the United States was seeking, for the time being, the diplomatic isolation of the Palestinian leader by discouraging U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere from inviting him on visits abroad.

The aim, he said, is to keep Mr. Arafat's focus on the task at hand, and he said, if he takes "credible steps" to curb the radicals, the administration would expect conciliatory actions by Israel.

Secretary Powell spoke here at the launch of an expanded advertising campaign by the State Department publicizing the availability of reward money to persons providing information about terrorist plots targeting Americans or U.S. interests.

The campaign will include new radio and newspaper ads, and also the posting of information about wanted terrorists on the State Department's Internet Web site.

Officials say the U.S. wanted list, now dominated by members of the Al Queda terror organization, will be expanded in a few weeks to include Palestinians held responsible for killing Americans in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.

More than 20 U.S. citizens have died in attacks there in recent years, and the extension of rewards in their cases had been long-sought by American Jewish groups.