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Bush Criticizes Israel's Siege of Arafat's Headquarters - 2002-09-24

President Bush is criticizing the Israeli siege of Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters, saying it does not help the cause of peace. The president's first public comments on the siege came at the end of a meeting with his cabinet.

His words were similar to those used Sunday and Monday by White House spokesmen. Mr. Bush said the Israeli action is not helpful, and urged all parties to stay on the path to peace.

"And I laid out what the path to peace was here in the Rose Garden. First of all, we all have got to fight terror," he said. "But as we fight terror, particularly in the Middle East, they have got to build the institutions necessary for a Palestinian state to emerge."

Mr. Bush said he still believes it is possible to battle terrorism while providing hope to the Palestinian people. He said that was the message the United States sent Monday at the U.N. Security Council.

The Council passed a resolution calling for Israel to end the siege. The United States tends to veto Security Council resolutions sharply critical of Israel, but this time the Bush administration abstained and let the measure pass.

Israeli officials have rejected the resolution, and say the stand-off in the West Bank city of Ramallah will end only when a group of suspected militants in the building either surrender or are taken prisoner.