- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may be able to leave his besieged headquarters in Ramallah under a U.S.-brokered deal details of which remain secret but his freedom will be limited by key conditions.

"We want Arafat to do what he said he would do," said a senior State Department official, "adopt a political path to get what he wants, stop the violence and issue instructions to people who work for him" to halt violence in the region.

"He is free to go" from Muqata, his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But we do not expect him to do an extended world tour."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that he is relying on moderate Arab leaders to pressure Mr. Arafat to meet the conditions.

Mr. Powell said on Capitol Hill that he called King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud Faisal in recent days.

"And all of them, upon my request, acted and talked to Palestinian leaders, made sure they understood the importance of taking the deal that was on the table," Mr. Powell said at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing yesterday.

Arab ambassadors yesterday told reporters at the Egyptian Embassy that they feared the Middle East conflict threatens their stability and efforts to move toward greater democracy.

"We are concerned that the situation in Palestine creates conditions where [Islamic extremists] from Afghanistan, who were discredited, now gain new legitimacy by invoking the events in Palestine," said Algerian Ambassador Idriss Jazairy.

After a decade of Islamic violence that left tens of thousands dead, Algeria has begun to suppress the militants and had set elections for May 30.

"If the situation persists, not just Algeria but all the Middle East will see a new lease on life" for Islamic radicals, the ambassador said.

Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy warned that televised reports of Israeli attacks on Palestinians lead to the "legitimization of attacks on civilians" by Palestinian suicide bombers.

Those suicide bombers "will threaten us all," he said, recalling that "those who killed [former Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat were Egyptians."

An official of Israel's government, which has all but labeled Mr. Arafat an enemy, said yesterday the Israeli government hoped Mr. Arafat would now accept U.S. special envoy Anthony Zinni's plan for a cease-fire and "take concrete steps against terrorists."

"If we withdraw [from the West Bank] and terrorism continues and suicide bombing continues, many Israelis think we will have to go back in again," said the Israeli official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Israeli analysts say Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to release Mr. Arafat from five months' confinement after President Bush quietly agreed to drop support for a proposed U.N. inquiry into Palestinian charges that Israel's recent military incursion in Jenin constituted a "massacre."

Israeli and U.S. officials, however, refused to confirm that a deal had been struck to trade Mr. Arafat's release for ending the U.N. inquiry.

But the officials said that Mr. Arafat has to take immediate steps to purge terrorists from his security forces, to punish those who plan or carry out attacks, and that he must remain in the Palestinian territories while he does so.

Asked whether Mr. Arafat agreed to the conditions of his release, the State Department official said, "Yes."

"He's made statements himself. At the second meeting [with Mr. Powell] at Muqata he said, 'I agree to all your proposals.'"

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