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Powell: No way Arafat can 'misunderstand' Bush message

Powell, left, was on hand as President Bush called Monday for new Palestinian leadership.
Powell, left, was on hand as President Bush called Monday for new Palestinian leadership.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says there was no way for Yasser Arafat "to misunderstand" the message President Bush delivered in his Middle East framework speech in which the president called for new Palestinian leadership.

Powell said he believes there is "debate within the Palestinian movement now as to the nature of the leadership they've been receiving" and that Bush was not speaking "against the Palestinian people, but for the Palestinian people" when he gave the address.

"We need responsible leadership coming out of the Palestinian community that we can work with," Powell said Tuesday.

Bush did not mention Arafat by name in his speech, but Powell said the "implication is clear."

"(Bush) didn't want to personalize it. He wanted to talk to the Palestinian people, and he wanted to talk to all Palestinian leaders and say to them, 'The direction in which you are going now with the leadership that you now have and the leadership organization and the government that you now have is not moving you in the right direction.'"

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Powell said Bush's speech helped reinforce a message he delivered in person to Arafat 10 weeks ago in Ramallah.

"There is no way for him to misunderstand the message that the president gave yesterday and the message that I delivered some 10 weeks earlier," Powell told CNN.

Powell went on to describe his meeting with Arafat this way:

"I made it clear to him that the direction he was taking was leading nowhere and that he had to make a fundamental, strategic choice as to whether he was going to continue to tacitly and actively support the intifida.....or whether he would make a strategic choice to move in a new direction. So far, we have not seen him make that strategic choice."

He praised Bush's speech for striking the right tone in encouraging Palestinians to "use the electoral process to bring in other leaders -- responsible leaders -- to diffuse power, make it more democratic, go after terrorists, end this violence."

"We will see in the days and weeks ahead whether the Palestinian people respond to this message and provide that kind of government. If that kind of government is provided democratically through the elections, then they will find the United States and the international community willing to work with them to help achieve that vision of a Palestinian state," Powell said.




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