Bush: Arafat 'can do a lot more'
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- With Israeli troops yards away from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound and another suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, President Bush addressed the escalating Middle East crisis Saturday from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
PRESIDENT BUSH: This morning I made a series of phone calls to world leaders to express my concern and listen to their concerns about the escalating violence in the Middle East.
We are at this point because there has not been enough done to fight off terror. All of the leaders in the world must stand up against terror and must do everything in their power to cut off funding to terrorist organizations, to prevent terrorist organizations from finding safe haven.
And that especially applies to Chairman Arafat. I believe he can do a lot more to prevent attacks, especially the one that just occurred in Tel Aviv.
I am deeply concerned about the loss of innocent lives. It breaks my heart when children and innocent women, innocent men lose their life.
I fully understand Israel's need to defend herself; I respect that. It's a country that has seen a wave of suicide bombers coming to the heart of their cities and killing innocent people. And that country has a right to defend herself.
As she does so, I urge that their government, the Israeli government, makes sure that there is a path to peace as she secures her homeland. But they've got to keep in mind the need that -- there has got to be a peaceful solution.
I've been assured by the Israeli government ... about the well-being of Chairman Arafat, that he won't be harmed.
I have heard him say that, well, he's confined, he can't do anything to secure ... the region. I know he's got a lot of forces, he's got a lot of people that listen to him still. And he has got to speak out clearly. He's got to make it absolutely clear that the Palestinian Authority does not support these terrorist activities, and use his security forces to prevent them from happening.
I have asked that (U.S. Middle East envoy Gen. Anthony) Zinni stay in the region. I think it is very important for our country to provide an opportunity for discussion, an opportunity for people to come together. So Gen. Zinni will stay there. He will stay there to continue to push for a process that will ultimately get us into Mitchell.
And Mitchell is the best way for peace. It's been agreed to by the parties. It is an opportunity for those who love peace to have a framework for peace.
Last night, ... the administration is supporting the U.N. Security Council resolution that urges that there be a cease-fire to start a process that will end this cycle of violence.
Here we are on one of the holiest of holidays, and we're worried about people needlessly losing their lives. And our prayers and thoughts go to the families of the victims, and I pray for peace.
And I urge all parties to recognize that there are terrorists in this world who can't stand the thought of peace. And all of us -- all of us must work together to condemn, find and stop terrorist activities.
I'd be glad to answer a few questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, with this latest terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv cafe tonight, with many apparent casualties, does Chairman Arafat, in your opinion, really have any control over these suicide bombers?
BUSH: I think Chairman Arafat could do a lot more. I truly believe that. I believe he needs to stand up and condemn, in Arabic, these attacks.
He's got a security force, admittedly somewhat on the defensive right now, but nevertheless there is a security force. This is a security apparatus. We've been dealing with the leaders of the security apparatus. And they have got to do a much better job of preventing people from coming into Israel to blow up innocent people.
The leaders in the region must do the same thing. You know, I was pleased that Crown Prince Abdullah spoke out so forcefully for what he called "normalization." We support that. But there is no normalcy when, day after day, killers destroy innocent lives.
All the leaders must join with governments such as ours to strongly condemn and stop terrorist activities.
I spoke to Jose Maria Aznar. He's the head of the European Union now. And ... he said, "The world must fight off these terrorists."
And the region can do more, in my judgment. The Iranians must step up and stop sponsoring terrorism. The Syrians must participate. If people want peace in the region, there has got to be a united effort against terror. And I do believe Mr. Arafat can do more.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you made a lot of phone calls today, but not to Sharon, not to Arafat. Why not? And what is the next U.S. step?
BUSH: Well, first of all, my administration has made a lot of phone calls to the region on a daily basis. Secretary of State Powell will be speaking to (Israeli) Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon again. ... This recent bombing has put the prime minister into a cabinet meeting and therefore he won't be able to take a phone call. But he is supposed to have made a call, like, right now. Nevertheless, we're in constant touch with these governments.
And the next step is to continue our call and our efforts and our push to fight off terror. It appears to me that these aren't just isolated incidents. I mean, there is a pattern and an intent and a constancy. And so, we will continue to lead, to talk and urge world leaders, particularly those in the region to do everything they can to shut off the capacity of people to come and bomb.
QUESTION: Why doesn't Arafat get a call by Powell today?
BUSH: He may be doing that. I just don't know. Arafat doesn't need a phone call from me. All he's got to do is what I just said. I believe ... that message will be delivered to him.
QUESTION: Mr. President, have we reached the point where there needs to be a more aggressive and more visible U.S. effort to quell the violence or have greater outreach to other nations in the region?
BUSH: Well, the vice president has just returned from the region. This is a significant outreach. We're spending a great deal of time. It's our capacity as the leader of the coalition against the war on terror to continue not only our war in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but also continue to fight terror in this region.
And every phone call I make, I remind people that are interested in peace, and the leaders I've talked to are interested in peace, we've all got to come together to stop terror. Our role ... is very active.
And I firmly believe that we can achieve a peace in the region, but not until there is a concerted, united effort to rout terror out. For example, in South Carolina, I remember talking to you all and saying ... that I was optimistic that we had a chance to get into Tenet. And by the time I got on the airplane and landed in Georgia, there had been this awful suicide bombing.
So it's clear to me that the more progress we make toward achieving a cease-fire or a meaningful security discussions, the more a killer organization will try to disrupt the process.
And therefore, the best way to make sure that we can get some meaningful dialogue going is to secure the ... region, in particular Israel, its homeland, by a united front against terror.
... Again, I repeat here, every leader I've talked to said, "We need peace." But there needs to be a focused coalition effort in the region against peace -- I mean, against terror, for peace.
QUESTION: You mentioned a moment ago that Iran and Syria need to do more...
BUSH: Yes, I believe they do.
QUESTION: Can you identify other countries in the region who need to do more than they're doing?
BUSH: All of the countries in the region must condemn terror, speak clearly about terror. I appreciate the fact that the Saudis have spoken about a vision for peace. I thought that was a very important statement. It recognized Israel's right to exist, and that's essential.
The corollary to that is, in order for Israel to exist, terror must stop.
I can understand why the Israeli government takes the actions they take. Their country is under attack. Every day there has been a suicide bombing, and every day the government sees the loss of innocent life.
On the other hand, I understand why some Palestinians feel so hopeless. ... The loss of innocent life on the Palestinian side is too much.
But the Palestinians, particularly those who long for a peaceful resolution, an independent state for the Palestinians as part of that peaceful solution, they must do everything in their power to stop terrorist activity.
QUESTION: Iran and Syria, do you have any evidence that those two countries are directly involved in the latest bombing?
BUSH: No, I do not have evidence, but ... I saw, for example, that Syria once again walked out of the United Nations when there was a reasonable resolution put forward. That should say something.
And secondly, I understand the connections between Hezbollah and Iran. And there has been no evidence -- again, I don't know who is claiming credit for this bombing. I haven't seen Hezbollah's name mentioned, but nevertheless that's terror, that's a terrorist organization.
But no, I have no direct evidence. Nevertheless, I do know their influence in the region. And if they are interested in a peaceful resolution, they too need to be active about cutting off funds.
And as you may recall, there was a ship that was intercepted by the Israelis that came from Iran, full of weapons.
And so, my point is, is that there needs to be a focused international effort to condemn, strongly condemn, as well as rout out terrorist activities. Otherwise, we will have a difficult problem in getting to a peaceful accord. There has been a framework laid out, and now the efforts will be -- the focus of the efforts, getting into the framework.
In the meantime, Israel will defend herself. And I understand that. My call is, as I said in my statement, that I hope Israel keeps in mind that there needs to be a road to peace. It's in the Israelis' interest, in my judgment, not only to defend herself but to keep in mind that there has got to be a peaceful resolution in order for her people to be able to grow up in a secure and peaceful world.
QUESTION: It seems as if you meant they're not trying to physically harm Arafat, that they're trying to undermine him, undermine his leadership of the Palestinians. Do you think that serves any purpose?
BUSH: I think Mr. Arafat could have done more three weeks ago and could do more today. ... I know I have been disappointed in his unwillingness to go 100 percent toward fighting terror. That includes using the security forces to prevent suicide bombers from crossing certain lands, and it also means speaking out clearly in his native tongue.
I fully understand the frustrations of the Israeli people. I sympathize. And I sympathize with the frustrations of the Palestinian people, those who long for normalcy, those who want to sent their kids to school and go to work.
There has got to be a much more concerted effort by Chairman Arafat and others to stop terror. ... So long as there is this reign of terror, there will be no peace. So therefore, stopping terror will make the conditions right for peace.
QUESTION: Mr. President, did you know in advance about the invasion? And what's your position? You know, should the Israelis get out of the compound? Should they continue the non- reaction and quit?
BUSH: Israel is a democratically elected government. And the government is responding to the will of the people for there to be more security. And Israel will make the decisions necessary to defend herself.
My point to the Israeli government is, as you do so, keep in mind there must be an avenue toward a peaceful settlement. As you defend yourself -- and you have the right to do so -- please keep in mind, and work with the region to develop a strategy that will end up in a peaceful settlement.
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