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US Senators Call For More Outside Involvement In Mideast - 2002-03-31

Members of the U.S. Senate are calling for greater outside involvement in the Middle East, in the wake of the escalating violence in Israel, where suicide bombers attacked a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa and a Jewish settlement in the West Bank Sunday. The attacks came hours after Israeli troops surrounding Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah exchanged gunfire with Palestinian security guards.

U.S. lawmakers Sunday added their voices to those calling on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to rein in suicide bombers in Israel.

Appearing on the television program "Fox News Sunday," Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman said Israel was acting in self-defense. "Tragically, the forces that Israel is facing are exactly the ones that struck us on September 11, and that we continue to face in our own war on terrorism. And I don't think this is the time to stop the Israelis from what they are doing in their own self-defense, even while we try what, I hope, are bolder moves by the Bush administration to enter the diplomatic fray.

Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, speaking on the CBS television program,' "Face the Nation," said it was time for the Bush administration to become more involved. "I think there needs to be something dramatic done, and I think the president needs to step up his involvement," he said. "I know Zinni is thereā€¦ the Arab states need to be more visible."

President Bush has condmned the latest suicide bombings in Israel, but says Middle East envoy General Anthony Zinni will stay in the region, seeking a cease-fire.

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, also speaking on "Face the Nation," said he believes the suicide bombers are beyond Mr. Arafat's control. "And there's no way, in my opinion, even if Arafat gives 100 percent, which is what [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon is asking, that you can avoid these suicide bombers," he said.

If and when a cease-fire is achieved between Israelis and Palestinians, Senator Specter said, he would support deployment of a limited number of U.S. troops to Israel as part of an international peacekeeping force.