- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

CIA Director George J. Tenet is resuming contact with Palestinian officials on a new security plan for the West Bank and getting ready to put it into operation, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.

The aim is to screen out suicide bombers whose deadly attacks have deepened Israel's distrust of the Palestinian Authority and caused President Bush to demand the ouster of Yasser Arafat.

But whether a new plan would succeed where others have failed could be pivotal to any negotiations for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After talking to Mr. Tenet, Mr. Powell said the meeting that the CIA director held Saturday with Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, the Arafat-appointed Palestinian interior minister, at CIA headquarters in northern Virginia was positive and productive.

As a result, Mr. Powell said, he expected Mr. Tenet to be back in touch "and to start to operationalize it."

Mr. Bush in June accused the Palestinian Authority of supporting terror rather than trying to stop it. He also demanded democratic reform and an end to corruption.

Last week, Mr. Yehiyeh and two other Palestinian Cabinet ministers appointed by Mr. Arafat held talks at the White House and the State Department, in addition to Mr. Yehiyeh's meeting with Mr. Tenet.

The CIA director told the former Syrian army officer he intended to review security measures proposed by the minister and also the findings of a CIA assessment team.

The three-day visit by the ministers and Mr. Tenet's follow-up this week draw the Bush administration the closest it has been to the Palestinian Authority since the president's speech in June calling for Palestinian reforms and new leadership.

The Bush administration is busy on other fronts as well. Egypt and Jordan have volunteered to help train Palestinian policemen.

Restoring security cooperation "is absolutely vital," State Department deputy spokesman Philip T. Reeker said yesterday. "And we do hope that significant progress can be made in the days ahead."

Mr. Tenet told Mr. Yehiyeh he is committed to moving ahead with a reorganized security force, sources close to the Palestinians said.

So far, the CIA director has made no plans to go to the area, but a trip has not been ruled out, other sources said.

"I don't know if George is planning to visit or others working for George would be planning to visit," Mr. Powell said. "We do have some people who are there now, working on the problem."

In Israel yesterday, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked government plans to expel three siblings of suspected Palestinian suicide attackers to the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli military court, in a first such ruling by a legal body, said on Monday that the three Palestinians could be transported from the West Bank, where they have lived all their lives, to the Gaza Strip, where they have no family ties.

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