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White House: Arafat's Words Need Action - 2002-04-14

Top Bush administration officials say Yasser Arafat must follow up his condemnation of terrorism with action. They say Secretary of State Colin Powell's talks Sunday with the Palestinian leader were "useful," and lower level discussions will follow.

White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said Secretary Powell delivered a strong message to Yasser Arafat from President Bush.

"The president and all are watching to make certain he follows up on some of the very positive statements that the Palestinian Authority made Saturday about denouncing the bombing that took place in Jerusalem, about denouncing terrorism against citizens, and that now it is time to follow those words with action," she said.

Ms. Rice told the NBC television program Meet the Press that Colin Powell is prepared to remain in the region for several more days. But she said it is unlikely his shuttle diplomacy will go on for weeks.

"It is obviously important for the secretary to be there and talk directly to the parties. But everyone knows what they need to do. It is no secret what will bring peace to the Middle East," she said. "It is getting the parties to stand up and act responsibly."

Meanwhile, Mr. Powell's top deputy told CBS's Face the Nation that the next round of U.S.-Palestinian talks will focus on a cease-fire. Richard Armitage said aides to the secretary, led by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, will sit down Monday with officials from the Palestinian Authority.

"The first thing we'll have to have is a cease-fire, and that is what the secretary's staff is looking to try to work out tomorrow," he said.

The Powell mission is being watched closely in capitals throughout the region. Jordan's King Abdullah told ABC's This Week that the secretary of state must not return home empty-handed. He said the key now is for Israel to completely withdraw from Palestinian areas.

"I know that we have reports of some pullouts, but we also have reports of Israeli incursions into other areas of the West Bank," he said. "So, the quicker the Israeli army pulls out, I think the better it is for all of us."

Appearing on the same program, a foreign policy advisor to the Israeli government said a withdrawal will come in time. But Danny Ayalon said Israel must deal with a terrorist threat first.

"It is going to happen eventually, once we are done uprooting the terror organizations, and make sure that terror does not bounce back when we leave," he said.

Mr. Ayalon was then asked if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might agree to meet with Yasser Arafat. He said there are no conditions under which such a meeting could take place.