- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Jesse Jackson pointedly criticized President Bush's handling of the Middle East and said he will seek to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on a peace mission to the region "soon," although he could not give a definite month.
Mr. Jackson said in an interview with The Washington Times yesterday that before the end of the year, he will travel as part of a coalition of religious leaders to the region, which has been embroiled in violence since early this year.
"I have talked with Mr. Arafat and [Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon] Peres," Mr. Jackson said. "'No-talk' is not an effective peace policy. We are going to take some time to build a bridge that Bush seems to have walked away from."
Mr. Bush has ended direct contacts with Mr. Arafat and has demanded new leadership to replace him as head of the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Arafat "has failed the Palestinian people," Mr. Bush told reporters last week.
Mr. Jackson, however, said that efforts to isolate Mr. Arafat will not work and will not achieve peace.
"This will be a peace delegation," Mr. Jackson said. "We have a formula now in place that needs some security, and we must use our leverage and give them some incentives."
He said that he has recently "been in touch with Secretary [of State Colin L.] Powell" as well as the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Palestinian Authority about the possibility of a visit.
Mr. Jackson has engaged in such missions before, including a 1999 effort in which he went to Yugoslavia to lobby President Slobodan Milosevic for the release of three U.S. soldiers. He has also gone to Syria and Egypt during times of strife. As before, the upcoming effort to the Middle East will include a delegation.
"We can't stop appealing," Mr. Jackson said. "These are appeals for reconciliation and the end of the violence."


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