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US Urges 'Complete' Israeli Withdrawal From Ramallah - 2002-03-14

As U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni began his new attempt to arrange an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, the State Department was urging a "complete" withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank city of Ramallah and other Palestinian-run areas recently occupied by Israeli forces.

The Bush administration has been critical of Israeli incursions into Palestinian population centers. And it is now calling for a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the areas officially under Palestinian control in order to boost chances of success for the Zinni mission.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, taking note of Israel's stated intention to re-deploy forces from Ramallah, said the withdrawal should be complete and apply to other Palestinian towns as well.

"We do expect a complete withdrawal from Palestinian controlled areas including Ramallah and the other areas that the Israeli defense force has recently entered," he said. "Such a complete withdrawal would greatly facilitate the work of General Zinni."

Mr. Boucher said the United States also expects Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to do more to stop extremist factions carrying out anti-Israeli violence.

He acknowledged that Israeli attacks on Palestinian security forces and administrative offices make that task more difficult, yet he said they do not "absolve" Mr. Arafat from his responsibility to act against terrorists, nor do they prevent him from doing so.

"The efforts that need to be made to dismantle groups that carry out terrorism to stop these pattern of suicide bombings and shootings are efforts that could be made on the telephone," he said, "that could be made through instructions, that could be made through people. And we would expect to see those efforts made."

Spokesman Boucher again stressed the administration's willingness to provide U.S. monitors to help implement the cease-fire plan drafted last year by CIA director George Tenet.

Getting the Tenet "work plan" into effect remains key objective of Mr. Zinni, who is making his third visit to the region since being named a special envoy last November. Mr. Boucher said there is no time limit for Mr. Zinni's mission and that he will stay in the region "as long as he can report progress."