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Powell Says US Opposes Possible Israeli Attempts to Remove Arafat - 2003-09-14

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States does not support eliminating or exiling Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, saying such a move could lead to anger spreading across the region.

The secretary of state, appearing on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday from Baghdad, was asked about statements by Israel's deputy prime minister that killing Yasser Arafat would be one way to remove the Palestinian leader, whom Israel regards as a backer of terrorism. "The United States does not support either the elimination of him [Arafat] or the exile of Mr. Arafat. The Israeli government knows it," he said.

Mr. Powell said any such Israeli action could have consequences across the region, and could hamper the international road map for peace. "I think the consequences would not be good [if Arafat were eliminated]. I think you can anticipate there would be rage throughout the Arab world, the Muslim world and many other parts of the world. And I do not see how, at this delicate moment, that would serve the cause of moving forward on the road map," he said.

The Israeli Security Cabinet decided on Thursday to remove Mr. Arafat in response to two suicide bombings in Israel earlier in the week. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said other options under consideration include expelling Mr. Arafat or further isolating him.

While the U.S. administration has made clear its opposition to the expulsion of Mr. Arafat, Mr. Powell reiterated that the United States has no intention of dealing with the Palestinian leader, whom the United States regards as an obstacle to peace.

The secretary of state said the Palestinians must have a prime minister who is committed to rooting out terrorism and who is given the tools necessary to do so, if the road map for peace is to succeed.