- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

Israel's foreign minister says his country would oppose, for now, having U.S. or other international observers in the Middle East to monitor a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.
Shimon Peres made his comments on CNN yesterday, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, in a separate interview on NBC, said the United States "is prepared to use monitors when the circumstances permit."
On CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," Mr. Peres said it is useless to send observers unless there is a peace accord. "Before you have observers, what are they going to observe? Namely, you have to have an agreement. If you don't have an agreement, what are observers going to do? What can they do?" the Israeli official asked.
"The first step, before we talk about observers, is really to decide where are the [boundary] lines who is in charge and then discuss the possibility of observers," Mr. Peres said.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, interviewed on CBS' "Face the Nation," said he sees a need for an outside military presence to separate the warring sides. Mr. Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said a proposal to put "American troops NATO troops, somebody in there" to "guarantee this peace" needs to "be on the table" if negotiations resume.
"The time for nibbling around the edges is over. We're seeing an escalation of a magnitude that we've probably never seen before with the current unprecedented violence. And so now, all this must be moved forward, and we must think in wider-lens terms than we've ever thought before," Mr. Hagel said.
But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, also a guest on "Face the Nation," said, "I think you'd have to see a very clear plan of what the goal is" before either monitors or troops could be sent to that volatile area.
"The trouble with U.S. troops or monitors, or any monitors, is that these [Palestinian] homicide bombers sort of sneak across parts of the border and blow themselves up. It doesn't lend itself to monitoring," Mr. Schumer said. He said monitors would need a way to go into Palestinian refugee camps and stop suicide bombs and other explosives from being created.
Miss Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the option of sending U.S. troops to the Middle East to secure the peace, if it is ever achieved, is "not on the table" and is "certainly not on our radar screen."
"I think it's premature to be talking about such and unlikely to think about American forces [being used in the Middle East] in the way that we thought about them in Kosovo," where they engaged in military operations as part of a NATO force and remain as part of a peacekeeping mission, Miss Rice said.
Bush administration officials and members of Congress who appeared on news talk shows yesterday were peppered with questions about the outlook for Middle East peace and whether U.S. troops would be needed to sustain it, after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell talked with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
"The first thing we will have to have is a cease-fire, and that's what the secretary's staff is looking to try to work out tomorrow," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said yesterday on "Face the Nation."
But, recognizing the violent, unpredictable history of the Middle East, Mr. Armitage said later, "I don't think there's an assurance of anything."
Asked whether U.S. monitors or troops are part of any cease-fire plan in that region, the State Department's second-in-command said, "Monitors generally, whether U.S. or otherwise, have been part of the conversations. There have been no discussions, to my knowledge, on the use of U.S. troops."
Last week, Mr. Powell said the United States was "prepared to contribute a small detachment of State Department or other civilian government employees to monitor any cease-fire agreement."
Interviewed yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition," Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the International Relations Committee, said such monitors "could be useful." But both he and Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and the committee's vice chairman, said they would oppose sending American troops.
"We are not equipped to deal with suicide terrorists any more than the Israelis. They probably are better equipped," Mr. Lantos said.
However, Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Sha'ath, also interviewed on CNN, said Palestinian officials told Mr. Powell yesterday that they "would like to see peacekeepers come as soon as possible to allow for a period of rebuilding the Palestinian police force, which has been shattered by the Israelis, and to allow protection for the Palestinians and the Israelis as well."
In her appearance on NBC, Miss Rice stressed that administration officials are not rushing to dispatch American observers to Israel. "First things first we need to get the immediate situation resolved, and then we need to get the parties refocused on the kinds of things that will bring peace to the Middle East," Miss Rice said.
"This is a decades-old conflict and it requires hard steps to move forward. And what the president is doing and Secretary Powell is doing with the president's mandate is to go out and begin to get the parties to take those hard steps."

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