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Cheney Questions Arafat's Commitment to Peace - 2002-01-27

Vice-President Dick Cheney says the latest suicide bombing in Jerusalem shows again that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not doing enough to stop terrorist attacks on Israel. Mr. Cheney says there must be positive action before the United States agrees to send Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni back to the region.

Yasser Arafat says he wants Anthony Zinni to return as soon as possible. Vice-President Cheney says, not yet. "At this stage, we need to see some positive signs that his return would do some good," he explained, "and that means we have got to see some positive results out of Arafat. He has got to fulfill his commitments and exercise his responsibility to control the terrorist attacks."

During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, the vice-president spoke at length about the situation in the Middle East. He said recent developments have called Yasser Arafat's commitment to the peace process into question.

Building on remarks made Friday by President Bush, Mr. Cheney talked about a possible link between the Palestinian leader and the boatload of weapons intercepted three-weeks ago by Israel. He said all signs point to direct involvement by Yasser Arafat. "In my mind and based on the intelligence we have seen, the people who were involved were so close to him, that it is hard to believe that he was not," Mr. Cheney reiterated.

The Vice-President said the Palestinians were trying to smuggle weapons provided by Iran with help from the Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah. He said that connection is worrisome. "The really disturbing part of this, of course, is that there are a lot of places he could go in the Arab world if he was looking for support and sustenance or for help in moving the peace process forward," Mr. Cheney pointed out. "Clearly, he has not done that. What he has done is gone to a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and a state that supports and promotes terrorism and is dedicated to ending the peace process, Iran, and done business with them."

Mr. Cheney said the smuggling incident can legitimately be called a terrorist operation. He said now more than ever, Yasser Arafat must make an absolute effort to end violence.

In a subsequent appearance on ABC television's This Week program, the Vice-President said the Palestinian leader has not lived up to his commitments. "We would like very much to see him fulfill his commitments and his obligations so we can get the peace process back on track," he said.

The vice-president was then asked about reports that the Bush administration might break ties with Yasser Arafat. Mr. Cheney said he has views on the matter that he has shared with the president, but he would not make them public.