- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

Two prominent Republican lawmakers with expertise in foreign affairs said yesterday they believe Secretary of State Colin L. Powell should meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during his trip this week to the Middle East.
Mr. Powell said on Friday he has no plans to meet with Mr. Arafat. But yesterday on CNN, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the secretary should meet with the chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
"We're reaching a point now where something dramatic has to occur. The violence is spiraling out of control, and you won't get anywhere unless you speak to people with authority on both sides," Mr. Hyde, of Illinois, said on CNN's "Saturday Edition with Jonathan Karl."
He added, "So I think the time for being very delicate about whom you talk to is past, and I think Colin Powell should talk to the effective leaders of the Palestinians to try and stop the terror."
Mr. Hagel, of Nebraska, interviewed later on "Saturday Edition," agreed. "It is important that the principals in this very complicated scenario be brought together. You may not like Arafat, have all kinds of problems with him. But the fact is he represents the Palestinian Liberation Authority, and he is part of this," he said.
Mr. Powell has not ruled out meeting with Mr. Arafat. But he said Friday that "there are no plans at this time. I plan to meet with as many leaders as I can in the region, reflecting all and representing all points of view."
In the interview yesterday, both Mr. Hagel and Mr. Hyde praised President Bush's decision to send Mr. Powell to the Middle East.
Asked why he thinks Mr. Powell has not yet committed to meeting with Mr. Arafat, Mr. Hyde said, "I think there is a feeling among some critics that meeting with Arafat is rewarding terrorism, and they don't want to do that. The philosophy, especially of the Israelis, is to isolate him, diminish him, demean him.
"But I think, when push comes to shove, you've got to sit across the table with somebody with authority to talk about ending the terrorism, and I think Colin Powell realizes it will be Arafat."
Mr. Hagel said the Mideast situation is "on the brink of spiraling out of control." If it does, he said, Washington could start seeing Arab nations breaking diplomatic relations with the United States.
"Right now, we have no good options. They are all full of risks. But we need to get into this right now," Mr. Hagel said. The sooner Mr. Powell gets to the Middle East, "the better," he added.
Mr. Hyde said he believes that the Palestinians must stop the suicide bombers who are killing Israelis, and that the Israelis "have to withdraw from the incursions they have made recently in response to the intifada."

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