- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

CRAWFORD, Texas President Bush said yesterday he expects Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to "condemn and thwart terrorist activities" within the next 72 hours.
The president sent that message shortly after he personally negotiated a deal to end the Israeli siege that has trapped Mr. Arafat at his West Bank compound since March 29.
Mr. Bush said the next few days will prove how serious the Palestinian chairman is about ending the violence.
"His responsibility is just what I said to renounce, to help detect and stop terrorist killings. And the message can't be more clear, and we're going to continue to hold people accountable for results," Mr. Bush said.
Saying "much hard work remains" to reach peace in the Middle East, Mr. Bush focused on the role Mr. Arafat will play.
"Chairman Arafat should now seize this opportunity to act decisively in word and in deed against terror directed at Israeli citizens," he said.
Mr. Arafat "hasn't earned my respect," the president said. "He must earn my respect by leading."
As he has since violence heated up in the region, the president called on all nations especially those in the Arab world to "step up our efforts to bring humanitarian relief and economic assistance to the Palestinian people."
Having arranged the deal to free Mr. Arafat from his monthlong captivity in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr. Bush said: "Chairman Arafat is now free to move around and free to lead, and we expect him to do so. One of the things he must do is condemn and thwart terrorist activities."
He called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Saturday three times, according to the Israeli government and dispatched diplomats to negotiate directly with Mr. Arafat. Mr. Sharon will visit the White House early next month, said White House spokesman Sean McCormack.
Mr. Bush won agreement on his proposal that U.S. and British civilian officers guard six Palestinians who are wanted by Israel on assassination charges and are being kept in Mr. Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, besieged for a month.
In return, Israeli troops would withdraw from Ramallah and Mr. Arafat would be allowed to leave his compound and move freely in the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Both sides approved the proposal yesterday.
"This has been a hopeful day for the region, and we must continue to press forward to peace," Mr. Bush said.
Israel sent troops into the West Bank a month ago in response to a series of bloody Palestinian terrorist attacks that killed dozens of Israelis and wounded hundreds more. The Israeli troops struck at strongholds of Hamas and other terrorist groups, and at forces of Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority, created under terms of a 1993 treaty brokered by the Clinton administration.
Mr. Bush yesterday renewed his demand that all parties in the conflict the Israelis, Palestinians and Arab neighbors meet their "responsibilities" to help end the conflict, but he imposed special demands on Mr. Arafat.
Palestinian officials expect the siege imposed on Mr. Arafat's headquarters to be lifted tomorrow.
Mr. Bush said his door was open to world leaders who want to "bare their souls" and discuss their plans for peace, but he wouldn't say that the offer extended to Mr. Arafat.
Mr. Bush praised Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah, with whom the president met on his ranch Thursday, for presenting specific ideas on how to advance the peace process. He called to thank him before Crown Prince Abdullah left the country yesterday. Last week Mr. Bush said he had "bonded" with the prince.
Even as he warned Mr. Arafat to step up, Mr. Bush went out of his way to express sympathy for Palestinians living with Israeli occupations and military actions a message the crown prince had delivered Thursday.
Mr. Bush renewed his promise to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, and called on other nations to follow his example.
"My heart grieves for a people who have no hope, and there are a lot of people who have no hope in the Middle East," Mr. Bush said. "There are some Palestinians who wonder whether or not life is worth living."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called Mr. Arafat yesterday. Mr. Arafat later accepted the U.S. plan on Ramallah, after meeting with American and British diplomats.
The White House did not disclose Mr. Bush's conversations on Saturday with Mr. Sharon until yesterday, a decision White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said came from the president's preference for "quiet diplomacy."
"The president is more interested in action and diplomacy" and does not want to negotiate through the news media, Mr. Fleischer said.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Abdullah failed Thursday to resolve differences on the eight-point peace plan Prince Abdullah brought to their five-hour talks.
Mr. Powell spoke three times over the weekend with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who in turn was in touch with Palestinian leaders on the Ramallah proposal.
Mr. Powell also talked to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Union foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, whose country holds the European Union presidency.
He also spoke with Mr. Arafat, according to Mr. Fleischer and Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior aide to Mr. Arafat who is with him inside his Ramallah headquarters.
Mr. Powell and Mr. Arafat discussed all of the effort Americans, Europeans, Russians and others are making to find a breakthrough and, the Arafat aide said, both men stressed the importance of an immediate, comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories as being key to stability and security in the region.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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