U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Wednesday to again press him for a crackdown against Palestinian factions responsible for anti-Israeli terrorism.
Aides to Mr. Arafat say the Palestinian leader urged the Secretary to send U.S. cease-fire envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region with Israeli-Palestinian violence threatening to escalate further.
However, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there are no plans for an early return by Mr. Zinni, who ended his second trip to the region January 6. He added Secretary Powell told Mr. Arafat that any peace effort must begin with a crackdown on Palestinian extremists, and accountability by the Palestinian Authority for the arms-smuggling case exposed by Israel earlier this month.
"The secretary spoke to Chairman Arafat this morning on the telephone and used the call to make clear once again to him the need for accountability over the Karine A affair and the need to take steps to rein-in the groups that perpetrate violence," said Mr. Boucher.
The Bush administration believes top associates of Mr. Arafat were involved in the effort to smuggle in a boatload of Iranian arms including long-range artillery rockets. At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said the smuggling case had "immensely complicated" peace-making efforts.
A senior official here said the Bush administration remains concerned about Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas and targeted killings of Palestinian radicals. But he said it sees such Israeli actions as retaliatory for acts of terror and that the "onus" remains on Mr. Arafat to end the cycle of violence.
He said if Mr. Arafat dismantled terrorist cells, there would be no provocation for Israeli military forays into areas under his control.
The official said Mr. Zinni would return to the area when his mediation efforts can be "useful and productive" and that the administration stands ready to work with Mr. Arafat once he complies with U.S. demands for tougher action.