- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The State Department said yesterday it had found no evidence linking Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat personally to attacks on Israel last year and chided the Jewish state for making the Palestinian Authority "less effective" by destroying its security infrastructure.
In its annual report on global terrorism, the State Department also said that Iran "remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism" last year, while Sudan and Libya came closest to taking the right measures to get out of the "terrorism business."
The report, titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001," said members of Mr. Arafat's Fatah movement had taken part in attacks on Israel through the Tanzim organi- zation and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
Nevertheless, it would not accuse Mr. Arafat and his senior aides of ordering or approving the attacks.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon brought thick files of documents with him to Washington earlier, which the Israeli government said constituted proof that Mr. Arafat authorized the dispensing of money to extremists.
Mr. Taylor conceded that the documents were authentic. "We don't have any question about the authenticity of the documents." However, he said the Bush administration was still studying them and would draw its own conclusions.
"Members of the Tanzim, which is made up of small and loosely organized cells of militants drawn from the street-level membership of Fatah, conducted attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank over the course of the year," the State Department document said.
"That's not a secret," said Francis Taylor, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. "But we have not been able to determine or to make final judgment on how far up and who in the [Palestinian Authority] may be or could be and had been directing this activity," he told reporters.
"That is why we have been very straightforward with Chairman Arafat that within the Palestinian areas that he has control over we believe that he can do much more to control the activities of those groups," he said.
The report also acknowledged that measures the Palestinian Authority (PA) has taken against extremists are far from sufficient, but it said, "Israel's destruction of the PA's security infrastructure contributed to the ineffectiveness of the PA."
Most attacks against Israel are usually carried out by militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which operate outside Mr. Arafat's immediate control. The terrorism report, which is required by Congress, was the first since last year's attacks and since President Bush branded Iran, Iraq and North Korea an "axis of evil" in January.
It said that, because of the more than 3,000 people killed on September 11, the deadliest year for terrorist attacks was 2001. The overall number of attacks declined, however, to 346 from 426 in 2000.
"Terrorists respect no limits, geographic or moral," said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at a briefing. "The front lines are everywhere, and the stakes are high. Terrorism not only kills people, it also threatens democratic institutions, undermines economies and destabilizes regions."
The State Department kept on its list of state sponsors of terrorism the seven countries it previously designated: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba.
"Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2001," it said. "Since the outbreak of the [Palestinian uprising], support has intensified for Palestinian groups that use violence against Israel. During the past year, however, Iran appears to have reduced its involvement in other forms of terrorist activity."
After the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan started last October, Tehran pledged to close its borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent Taliban and al Qaeda members from escaping into Iran. However, the report claimed that "Arab Afghans, including al Qaeda members, used Iran as a transit route to enter and leave from Afghanistan."
It gave credit to Iran, North Korea and Syria for making "limited moves" to cooperate in the war on terrorism "in some narrow areas."
"Iran and Syria, however, seek to have it both ways," it said. "On one hand, they clamped down on certain terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda. On the other hand, they maintained their support for other terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, insisting they were national liberation movements."
The report accused Iraq of using "terrorism against dissident Iraqi groups opposed to Saddam Hussein's regime" and said that "North Korea's initial positive moves halted abruptly."
But it did not mention any of the concerns that Cuba is pursuing biological warfare capabilities and sharing them with "other rogue states," voiced earlier this month by John Bolton, undersecretary of state for international security and arms control.
"Sudan and Libya seem closest to understanding what they must do to get out of the terrorism business, and each has taken measures pointing it in the right direction," the report said.


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