- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Vice President Richard B. Cheney said yesterday that Yasser Arafat has not done enough to curb Middle East violence to warrant a trip to the region for a meeting with the Palestinian leader.
Mr. Cheney spoke as the death toll mounted in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Representatives from the two sides held another meeting yesterday under U.S. auspices but made little headway toward a truce that would set the stage for peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.
"It is slow going," said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Progress has been very slow. It's fair to point a finger of blame at the Palestinians."
Israeli and Palestinian officials said another meeting was scheduled for today. The Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sunset Wednesday.
While the outcome of U.S. mediator Gen. Anthony Zinni's meetings could have determined whether Mr. Cheney flies to Egypt, administration officials earlier played down that possibility.
Mr. Cheney said Mr. Arafat had not met a series of conditions for a meeting, including renouncing terrorism and sharing intelligence with the Israelis.
"So far, those [conditions] have not been implemented. That doesn't mean it won't happen. That doesn't mean it will happen," Mr. Cheney said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"We're going to do everything we can to try to bring the bloodshed to an end and get on a political track, but we're not there yet," he said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, traveling with President Bush in Latin America, said the vice president "could go at a later time. It doesn't have to be right away. The important point is that Chairman Arafat knows we want to engage with him as we move forward."
Mr. Cheney framed a possible meeting as "just one more piece, if you will, of the whole proposition" toward peacemaking. "I wouldn't overdo it, in the sense that somehow everybody's focused in on this is the be-all and end-all of the process. It's not. It's a part of the process," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."
The violence continued yesterday in the Middle East. Israeli troops shot and killed four suspected militants after they fired at Jordanian border guards and then slipped into Israel across the usually quiet frontier, officials in both countries said.
An Israeli woman was fatally shot while traveling on a West Bank road, and Israeli troops killed a Palestinian policeman in a gunbattle nearby. Israeli soldiers also shot and killed a Palestinian near a crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinians said.
Early today a Palestinian man was killed and at least two persons were wounded when Israeli tanks and armored bulldozers entered a Palestinian refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.
The violence further complicated Gen. Zinni's efforts to forge a cease-fire before Wednesday's start of the Arab League summit in Lebanon, which is expected to address peace prospects.
Mr. Powell said the United States expects that meeting to produce a "positive declaration" on a peaceful future with Israel that includes full normalization of Arab-Israeli relations.
Gen. Zinni was to meet last night in Tel Aviv with the Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides have endorsed in principle a U.S. cease-fire plan, but remain divided on several key issues.
The administration is confident Mr. Arafat "is capable of doing much more than he has, but up to now he has not expended the level of effort we think is warranted," Mr. Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Mr. Cheney also said the Arab League meeting would be more productive if Mr. Arafat were present. Mr. Arafat wants to go, but Israel has not given him permission and may keep him grounded if there is no truce deal.
"If Arafat is not there, the concern is that he will become the focus … and that you won't have the kind of positive result that might otherwise be possible," Mr. Cheney said.
Mr. Powell said he and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah have reviewed the draft of an Arab League declaration they hope will be adopted. It recognizes the right of Israel to exist, the creation of a Palestinian state, and the intent of Arab nations to establish relations with Israel, Mr. Powell said.
Asked about U.S. expectations on normalized relations, a term some Arab leaders have sought to water down since Prince Abdullah announced his peace initiative, Mr. Powell replied:
"There are a lot of different definitions of what normalization might or might not mean. To me, it means you have normal relations with a country you are not at war with … where you exchange delegations and presence and you deal with them as partners, sovereign partners. That would be a step forward."


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