Arafat urges U.S. to 'pressure' Israel
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell this week reiterating Palestinian reform efforts while urging him to pressure Israel to take reciprocal steps, a State Department official said Friday.
Arafat lists in the lengthy letter a variety of steps already under way to bring about reform, including announcing elections.
In return, Arafat called on Powell to use U.S. clout to "pressure Israel" to take reciprocal steps, such as releasing Palestinian tax revenue, withdrawing from Palestinian territory and easing closures, officials said.
While the officials were not sure if Powell plans to respond to Arafat's letter, they said there "wasn't much of a chance" in light of President Bush's speech last month calling for a change in Palestinian leadership.
One official said it was "not wise" for Arafat to make demands of Israel considering that Bush put the onus on Arafat to make significant reforms.
Powell is scheduled to travel on Tuesday to New York to hold a meeting with the so-called Madrid Quartet -- made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- and the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan plans to hold a dinner for all the participants Tuesday night.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the meeting is intended to advance Bush's vision of two states living side by side in peace with recognized borders, and to help the Palestinians implement reforms, including reform of the Palestinian economy and its political structure.
U.S. officials privately admit Powell will still have a tough job persuading members of the quartet to support the U.S. call for new Palestinian leadership without Arafat.
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