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White House Urges Palestinians to Boost Security Force - 2002-06-05

President Bush has condemned Wednesday's suicide bombing near the West Bank. Mr. Bush will continue to push for the creation of a Palestinian state in separate talks with the leaders of Israel and Egypt.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush condemns the "brutal" attack in the strongest possible terms. "This attack underscores the fact that these terrorists are the worst enemies of not only the Israeli people but also of the Palestinian people and their hopes for a better life and for all people who are concerned with peace," said the spokesman.

Mr. Fleischer says the attack underscores the importance of the Palestinian Authority to develop a security force that both Israel and the Palestinian people can rely on to stop and prevent attacks.

CIA Director George Tenet is in the region for talks on restructuring those security forces under a unified command. Mr. Fleischer says it is "too soon to say" whether Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is serious about reforming the force.

Unlike previous suicide bombings where Mr. Fleischer singled out Mr. Arafat as needing to do more to stop the violence, the White House spokesman Wednesday said the president is focused on actions not on individuals.

While U.S. officials are continuing to deal with Mr. Arafat as Palestinian leader, Mr. Fleischer appeared to question his future in the peace process, saying Mr. Arafat has never played a role of "someone who can be trusted or who was effective."

Mr. Fleischer says Wednesday's attack shows the importance of continuing to work toward the president's vision of a Palestinian state in which two separate nations can live side by side in peace and security.

That will be the focus of the president's meetings Saturday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.