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Congress: Cut Palestinian ties if terrorism continues

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Both houses of Congress are planning to offer a strongly worded resolution demanding that President Bush suspend relations with the Palestinians if they fail to take specific steps to end terrorism, congressional aides told CNN.

The nonbinding resolution is expected to reach the floors of the House and Senate on Wednesday.

It is sponsored in the House by International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, and Tom Lantos, D-California, and in the Senate by Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina.

Because the resolution is nonbinding, it does not have the force of law, nor does it require a presidential signature.

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A draft text of the resolution, obtained by CNN, expresses solidarity between the United States and Israel and "outrage" at the "ongoing Palestinian terrorist campaign," including the suicide bomb attacks that killed 25 Israelis over the weekend. It insists the Palestinian Authority take all steps necessary to end such activity.

Specifically, the resolution calls on the Palestinian Authority to immediately destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorist groups, pursue and arrest those terrorists wanted by Israel and either prosecute them "with the stiffest possible punishment" or turn them over to Israel for prosecution.

The resolution also "urges the president to suspend all relations with (Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority if they fail to take the actions" described in the resolution.

A senior administration official told CNN that there is "no talk" within the Bush administration about formally suspending relations with Arafat or the Palestinian Authority in the near future.

The official noted the president already has few dealings with Arafat.

"You are talking about a president who currently doesn't even have much interest about dealing with Arafat or the Palestinians" until they take steps to stop terrorism, this official said. "What is this resolution trying to do -- preach to the converted?"

In the wake of this weekend's bombing attacks, the Bush administration warned Arafat that unless he takes steps to crack down on terrorist activity against Israel, he will lose U.S. support, senior administration officials tell CNN.

In a conversation this weekend with Arafat that officials described as "very tough," Secretary of State Colin Powell called on the Palestinian leader to take steps similar to the ones he took in 1996 against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In addition to arrests of various extremist leaders, Arafat went after terrorists' finances, seized weapons and targeted bomb-making facilities used against Israel.

"I made it clear to the chairman (Arafat) that he had to respond to the seriousness of this attack against Israel and against him and against the process we're trying to get started," Powell said, summarizing the conversation he had with Arafat over the weekend. "I think he needs to do a lot more than we have seen so far."

Powell also called Tuesday for Arafat to crack down on terrorism. His Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, urged Arafat to take responsibility for the fate of the Palestinian people.

While Israel launched more attacks at Palestinian targets Tuesday, the administration refrained from calling on Israel to exercise restraint in its retaliatory attacks against the Palestinians.

Deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the administration "understands the difficult situation faced by Israel and the need to fight terror.

"I'm not going to try to determine what steps the Israelis may or may not take or how they should take it," Reeker said. "What we want to see is action to end the terrorism. We've called for that. Chairman Arafat's made statements. He needs to follow through on those statements. He can do more."



 
 
 
 



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