Bush administration officials say Yasser Arafat must do more to curb violence and follow through on the statements he makes in public and in print. In an article he wrote for the Sunday opinion page of the New York Times, Mr. Arafat said he condemns terrorist attacks on Israel and wants to work for peace.
The response in Washington ranged from lukewarm to dismissive. In an interview on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he welcomes the words but they are not enough. "I am pleased that he condemns terrorism, and did so again today," he said. "That is good. But now what we need is action against terrorists." Mr. Powell said Yasser Arafat can and must do much more to end the bloodshed. "He has to do a lot more to get the violence under control, to persuade the Palestinian people and all these Palestinian organizations that they are destroying the vision of a Palestinian state by violent acts."
The Secretary of State made clear, however, that despite its disappointment with Yasser Arafat, the Bush administration is not going to give up on the peace process. He indicated there is a faint glimmer of hope. "We stay in touch with Chairman Arafat and other individuals within the Palestinian Authority," he pointed out. "I am pleased to see that Prime Minister Sharon met with a number of them the other day and I will be meeting with them as well in the days ahead trying to get this process started. We can't walk away."
Prime Minister Sharon meets with President Bush at the White House on Thursday. He is expected to use the occasion to urge the President to sever ties with Yasser Arafat.
There have been a number of high-level discussions at the White House in recent days on how best to put pressure on the Palestinian leader. Officials are keeping quiet in public about the various options under consideration. But the president's national security advisor leaves no doubt patience is running out.
During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, Condoleezza Rice dismissed the article Yasser Arafat wrote for the New York Times. She said it is not helpful. "We are asking nothing more of Chairman Arafat than we have asked of every other leader in the world," she explained. "If he is going to be the leader of the Palestinian people and he wants to achieve the vision he is laying out here, he knows how to do it. And it begins with dealing with the terrorists in his midst."
Ms. Rice said Yasser Arafat must make a 100-percent effort to end the violence. She said nothing less will do.