- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in the United States yesterday for talks with President Bush on the Mideast peace process as the president's key foreign-policy advisers expressed sharp disagreement over the importance of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Mr. Sharon, who arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, brought with him documents that he says show direct complicity by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in suicide bombings and other terrorism.
The prime minister will discuss terrorism and other Middle East issues in Washington tomorrow in his fifth meeting with Mr. Bush.
In interviews yesterday on network news talk shows, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the president's chief national-security advisor, expressed sharply different views on the settlements, which are regarded as a key issue in the "peace process."
Mr. Powell said the Bush administration will urge Mr. Sharon to end Israeli "settlement activity" in Palestinian areas because the settlements are an impediment to peace.
"Something has to be done about the problem of settlements. The settlements continue to grow; they continue to expand It's not going to go away," Mr. Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I'm sure this will be part of our discussion with Prime Minister Sharon."
Miss Rice, in several appearances on the Sunday interview shows, said the administration will not pressure Israel on the settlements at least until Palestinian terrorism ceases.
On "Fox News Sunday," Miss Rice said, "Let's take one thing at a time. Settlements will eventually be an issue. But I think we have to get the context right here. We need to end the terror, create a situation in which there is better security and no violence."
"We're not going to get ahead of ourselves and talk about pressuring anyone," she said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer." She said settlements would be one topic of discussion.
Mr. Powell's emphasis on settlements and Miss Rice's emphasis on ending Palestinian terror reflects a split within the administration between those who support Israel's tough actions against the Palestinians and those, such as Mr. Powell, who would first address Palestinian concerns.
However, Mr. Powell, in an interview on ABC's "This Week," said he recognizes that a resolution of the settlement issue could take a long time. But he said resolving it is essential "in due course."
Mr. Bush said last month that "Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop. And the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries."
Israeli sources told Reuters news agency that the prime minister will propose to Mr. Bush a plan that leaves Israeli settlements in place in Palestinian areas. Such a plan, especially if combined with earlier Israeli proposals to annex part of the West Bank, would clash with Palestinian demands for sovereignty.
Mr. Bush has declared his support for the creation of a Palestinian state, without offering specific details of how this would be accomplished.
The lengthy dossier Mr. Sharon brought to Washington purports to show the Palestinian leader's signature on payments to terrorists who organized suicide attacks and arranged weapon purchases. The 100-page intelligence file accuses Mr. Arafat of routinely diverting American and European aid to finance these terrorist operations.
Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said on "Fox News Sunday" that the documents "apparently" were to have been presented to representatives of the Bush administration in Washington late yesterday and "will be a focal point for the discussion" tomorrow between Mr. Sharon and Mr. Bush.
He said the documents "confirm suspicions that Yasser Arafat has been at the center of actions of terrorism by various PLO forces and that Arafat has had a goal of the destruction of the state of Israel rather than arriving at a peace with the state of Israel."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the documents "lies, forgeries and fabrications."
On "Fox News Sunday," Miss Rice said the U.S. government "has long been concerned about the potential ties between the terrorists and the Palestinian Authority." She said these ties could make a Palestinian state impossible.
"The Palestinian leadership that is there now, the Authority, is not the kind of leadership that can lead to the Palestinian state that we need," she said.
Mr. Erekat expressed outrage, calling her comments "unacceptable arrogance and interference."
Last week, Mr. Powell announced that the United States was planning an international peace conference at an undetermined location this summer. Yesterday on "Meet the Press," he said the meeting "should be at ministerial level" and that overhauling the Palestinian Authority would be a fit topic of discussion.
Mr. Sharon is said by diplomatic sources to be prepared to tell Mr. Bush that he will negotiate with Palestinians only if "violent terror attacks stop completely" and will not negotiate at all with Mr. Arafat.
Both Mr. Powell and Miss Rice yesterday rejected Israel's attempts to sideline Mr. Arafat and to shelve talk of a Palestinian state. "It serves us all better if we continue to work with all Palestinian leaders and to recognize who the Palestinian people look to as their leader," Mr. Powell said on ABC's "This Week."
Miss Rice said on the Fox network: "The White House position is that we're not going to try to choose the leadership for the Palestinian people. Chairman Arafat is there."
At tomorrow's meeting with the president, Israeli sources say Mr. Sharon also will propose constructing a physical buffer between Israel and the West Bank to keep terrorists out and will ask for U.S. financial help in building it.
Mr. Powell said he would be skeptical about such an approach's ability to address the root causes of terrorism.
"I'd like to hear if that really is the prime minister's position," Mr. Powell said on NBC. "But I don't know that you're going to solve the problem with a fence, unless you solve the underlying problems of the Palestinians feeling they are disenfranchised."
Mr. Powell was asked about reports that he is "frustrated by bureaucratic battles with administration hard-liners" and by Mr. Bush's "willingness to tolerate" what Mr. Powell is said to view as "meddling" in foreign policy by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
This article was based in part on wire service reports.


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