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Bush says Arafat must 'rout out' terrorists

(CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat must "rout out those killers" trying to disrupt the Middle East peace process.

"Mr. Arafat must show leadership and bring those to justice who would use murder as a weapon to derail peace and destroy innocent life," Bush said. "He must use leadership. Now is his time."

During a news conference following a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, Bush said other "nations of the world that are interested in peace" also must encourage Arafat to "do everything in his power to prevent further terrorist attacks."

Terrorist bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa last weekend killed 25 Israelis and three suicide bombers. The violence led to major Israeli military strikes against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza.

Bondevik said he spoke with Arafat and with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and urged them to avoid escalation of violence. He said Arafat asked him to take a message to Bush asking for a chance to act against terrorists. (Full story)

Arafat will meet Thursday with retired U.S. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who is trying to broker a cease-fire between the Israelis and Palestinians, senior U.S. and Palestinian authorities said.

Earlier in the day, Arafat asked for and received Israeli assurances his forces would be able to move as needed to arrest terrorists and prevent further terror attacks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told CNN the assurances came after an exchange of phone calls he had with Arafat in which he told the Palestinian leader he had to take quick action against terrorists.

Peres said he told Arafat, "You have no time; you have to act now."

Israel has said it wants the Palestinians to arrest 36 people it believes are at the top of terrorist organizations responsible for killing Israelis.

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Arafat complained to Peres he did not have the ability to move his forces to make the arrests. Peres said he consulted with Sharon and then told Arafat his forces would be allowed to move as needed.

Peres described to CNN the exchange this way: "Yasser Arafat phoned me and he said he wants to take matters into his own hands, but we're not enabling him to. I told him, 'The matter is up to you, entirely up to you. In the next 12 hours you can determine the attitude toward the Palestinian Authority.'

"'You have the permission. You have a list of 36 people to our knowledge that are the head of the terror. I really, really recommend to you that you put them in jail.'"

The two men spoke by telephone after a suicide bomber set off a blast outside a Jerusalem hotel. The bomber was killed and six people suffered minor injuries.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, Minister of Internal Security Uzi Landau and Religious Affairs Minister Asher Ohana were at the hotel at the time of the attack, Israel Radio reported.

In a statement faxed to news agencies, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the Wednesday attack and said the bomber was targeting Israeli government officials. Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas claimed responsibility for the weekend bombings.

Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.

Other developments

• Palestinian police ordered the house arrest of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassen Wednesday, sparking angry demonstrations in Gaza. Police said Hamas militants opened fire early Thursday on Palestinian police outside his home, but a Hamas source inside the house disputed the report. (Full story)

• Sharon said Wednesday Arafat must meet five demands before a political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be possible. The demands included the arrest of leaders of militant organizations, dismantling those organizations, destroying all illegal weapons, imposing real preventive actions to stop those who plan terror attacks and halting incitement.

• The Palestinian delegation to the United Nations sent a letter to the president of the Security Council pushing for action in response to the Israeli attacks. The Palestinians huddled with Arab nations and their supporters to discuss what kind of action should be urged on the 15-member Security Council. Whatever they decide, the United States and others are likely to block any Security Council consideration at this delicate time. Earlier this year, the United States vetoed a resolution that would have condemned Israel and dispatched observers to the Middle East.

• The Bush administration Tuesday froze the assets of a Texas-based Islamic foundation that bills itself as a charity, charging it raises millions of dollars for Palestinian Hamas -- branded an "extremist" terrorist group by the United States -- which uses the funds to train and support suicide bombers. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development disputed the charges as a "smear campaign" against Muslims. (Full story)


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