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US Issues Angry Response to Gaza Bombing - 2003-10-16

The United States has responded angrily to the bombing deaths of three Americans in Gaza, with Secretary of State Colin Powell telling Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei that there can be no Palestinian state without the elimination of terrorism.

The three Americans killed in the roadside bomb blast in Gaza were contract security officers of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv -- all of them in their thirties -- escorting a U.S. embassy team into the Gaza strip to interview Palestinians who had applied for Fulbright scholarships for study and teaching in the United States.

In a statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the slain Americans had been on a mission of peace, helping the Palestinian people, and were murdered by the same terrorists who have killed so many others and are, in his words, "killing the dream" of Middle East peace.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, reading the Powell statement to reporters, said that in a telephone conversation with Palestinian Prime Minister Qurei, the Secretary warned that progress toward peace will be impossible unless Palestinian authorities move effectively against terrorism.

"With Prime Qurei, I made absolutely clear that we cannot move forward to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without eliminating violence and terrorism," said Mr. Powell. "I also made clear that we expect full cooperation in investigating this heinous act, and in bringing these murderers to justice." Mr. Powell also discussed the attack by telephone with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

In an earlier written statement from California, President Bush said Palestinian authorities "should have acted long ago" to fight terrorism in all its forms. The president said there must be an empowered prime minister who controls all Palestinian security forces but that this continues to be blocked by Yasser Arafat. Mr. Bush said the failure to undertake these reforms and dismantle the terrorist organizations "constitutes the greatest obstacle" to achieving the Palestinian people's dream of statehood.

The bombing came a day after the United States vetoed a Syrian-sponsored resolution in the U.N. Security Council condemning Israel's construction of a security barrier that runs through some Palestinian areas in the West Bank.

Under questioning here, spokesman Boucher said the idea the Gaza attack might have been a response to the U.S. veto was "reprehensible" and that even in the "deranged" logic of a terrorist, a U.N. vote cannot be an excuse for the murder of innocent people.

U.S. officials had criticized the resolution as unbalanced, in that it did not condemn acts of terrorism against Israelis, and Mr. Boucher said the United States had to use the veto when the measure was forced to a vote.