- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

Jordan's King Abdullah II tacitly backed Israel's confinement of Yasser Afarat to house arrest, reflecting what a senior U.S. official called growing Arab disillusionment with the Palestinian leader's failure to stop terrorist attacks.
In a meeting with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, King Abdullah "talked about putting Arafat in a corner" and said it was a good idea to do so, the senior official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The Jordanian monarch told Mr. Powell that he has "no problem" with American pressure on Mr. Arafat to get him to crack down on suicide bombers that have struck repeatedly in Jerusalem and elsewhere inside Israel in recent days, the U.S. official said.
But Jordan's Foreign Minister disputed the U.S. account of the meeting.
"That's not what we said," said Marwan Muasher in an interview. "We think Arafat is in a corner, and we would like to see Arafat get out of his corner.
"We think there are commitments both sides need to live up to. We agree on the need to stop the violence. We also agree on the need for Israel to stop targeted killings and demolition of houses."
The United States has increasingly blamed Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian Authority leader, for spiraling violence in the Middle East while refusing to criticize Israel for using tanks and troops to box him into his Ramallah office on the West Bank.
When the State Department last week abandoned a long-term policy of placing blame for violence on both Palestinians and Israelis, there was little criticism from leaders in the Arab world.
A turning point in U.S. policy toward Mr. Arafat followed the capture last month of a ship loaded with weapons from Iran heading toward the Palestinian coast.
According to the U.S. official, King Abdullah is not the only Arab leader fed up with Mr. Arafat for allowing extremists of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups to attack Israeli civilians.
King Abdullah "is obviously in touch with other Arab leaders," the senior official said.
"That seems to be the predominant Arab view these days," he said, noting that Egypt also approves of pressuring Mr. Arafat.
Mr. Muasher, a former ambassador to Washington, said the king came to urge the United States to engage with Mr. Arafat, who has not been invited to the White House since President Clinton left office.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, however, has made several visits and returns next week.
Speaking to reporters with King Abdullah at his side yesterday, Mr. Powell said that "we have not given up hope" of finding a way to get to a cease-fire.
The king said he hoped to "find a just solution to try and get some sort of relief for Israelis and Palestinians to get themselves out of the cycle of violence."
"It is very apparent that Israelis and Palestinians alike, as peoples, are frustrated and desperate to find a way out of the suffering that is going on in that region.
"At the end of the day, let's forget about the politics and the leadership. The peoples I believe the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are just sick and tired of the cycle of violence and want a way out."
King Abdullah, whose wife is Palestinian and whose people are about half Palestinian, said President Bush "in his heart, I know, wants to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians and give hope and security to the Palestinians."
"And that is what we're here to try and achieve in our visit to Washington," he said.
The king will talk with President Bush today at the White House.
Mr. Powell repeated the administration's support for a Palestinian state to exist peacefully alongside Israel with "both respecting each other's right to exist, both living in security with each other."
The administration's special Middle East envoy, Gen. Anthony Zinni, will not return to the Middle East until "we have got things under a greater degree of control than they are now with respect to violence," Mr. Powell said.
Also yesterday, Mr. Sharon said in a published interview that Israel should have "eliminated" Mr. Arafat during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
"In Lebanon, it was agreed that Arafat would not be eliminated. To tell the truth, I'm sorry we didn't eliminate him," he told the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.
Instead, Mr. Arafat and thousands of Palestinian fighters were evacuated by ship to Tunisia, where they remained in exile until the Oslo accords of 1993 created the Palestinian Authority and allowed him to return to Gaza and the West Bank as its leader.
Palestinians called Mr. Sharon's remarks proof of his deep hostility toward Mr. Arafat.
But Israeli government spokesman Ranan Gissin said that even though Israel has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks "today Israel's policy is not to harm him personally."
Yesterday, violence continued in the region as Israeli forces killed two Palestinian gunmen from the Islamic militant group Hamas as they ambushed a convoy headed for a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip.
The gunmen were shot dead after they detonated a roadside bomb as a truckload of Thai workers passed, then opened fire on troops in the convoy, the army said.
Shortly after the attack, mortar shells hit a settlement in the Gush Katif community, injuring one Israeli. Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces entered the nearby Khan Younis refugee camp and detained 10 Palestinians at a Gaza checkpoint.


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