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Powell chides Arafat's terror talk

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Colin Powell criticizes Yasser Arafat for telling Palestinians to "strike terror in your enemy."
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Secretary of State

DEAD SEA RESORT, Jordan (CNN) -- The United States is doing all it can to get the Middle East peace process back on track, but "ultimately reform must come within," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

He took Yasser Arafat to task, after the Palestinian leader Saturday quoted a verse from the Koran calling on people to find the strength to "strike terror in your enemy... if they want peace, then let's have peace."

"Mr. Arafat continues to make statements like the one he made yesterday about let's terrorize the region," Powell said.

"Everybody says the United States should do more, we want to do more, but Mr. Arafat continues to take actions and make statements that makes it exceptionally difficult to move forward."

Arafat has publicly rejected terrorist attacks, but Israeli officials have accused him of supporting such actions.

U.S. officials do not communicate with Arafat, saying he has failed to act against terror or allow a prime minister enough power to crack down on Palestinian terrorism.

Powell met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei a day earlier, where the U.S. secretary pushed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan as a move that could help jump start the peace process.

After the hour-long meeting at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, Powell told reporters, "We hope we can get the process started again within the context of the road map."

The "road map" for Middle East peace -- backed by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- has been stalled amid terror attacks by Palestinian groups and Israeli military incursions into Palestinian areas.

It outlines a series of steps aimed at establishing a Palestinian state that exists peacefully with Israel by 2005.

Powell said he and Qorei discussed the pullout, including "the development of security plans" and how Palestinians would "take control of Gaza when it comes to pass."

"Time is passing," Powell said. "We have to look at the reality of the situation and ... redouble our efforts and get on with it."

But, he said, "I don't think anybody can predict right now whether we can achieve" a separate Palestinian state by 2005, as called for in the road map.

Said Qorei, "We are very pleased to talk to Secretary Powell. [We] discussed the situation about the peace process, how to revise the peace process forward. I think we had very, very constructive talks this afternoon."

Powell: U.S. opposes Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes

Powell also said the United States opposes Israel's destruction of homes in Gaza.

Israel's high court Sunday lifted a temporary injunction allowing the Israeli military to continue demolishing Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern part of the territory.

The three-judge panel accepted testimony from the Israel Defense Forces that the house demolitions are a security measure, not a means of deterrence.

The Israeli Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction late Friday to block the demolitions, following a petition by a Palestinian human rights group.

"We don't think that that is productive," Powell said. "We know that Israel has a right to self defense, but the kind of actions they are taking in Rafah with the destruction of Palestinian homes, we oppose.

"The U.S. is anxious to stop this cycle of strike and counterstrike, which has resulted in the loss of so many lives within the last week."

Israel has destroyed numerous buildings in Rafah over the past week as Israeli-Palestinian fighting has intensified in Gaza.

In numerous fights over the past week, 13 Israeli soldiers and at least 31 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. Israel and Palestinian officials identified many of the dead Palestinians as members of groups that Israel and the United States consider terrorist organizations.

Paul McCann, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza (UNRWA) said Israel has demolished 88 buildings in Rafah since Wednesday. Israel's actions were "disproportionate" and "appear to be on some levels, collective punishment," McCann said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said dozens of buildings had been destroyed, but said the army only demolished buildings that had been used by militants to stage attacks on Israelis. Some buildings were damaged as a result of Palestinian antitank rocket fire aimed at Israeli troops, she said.

Israeli officials have also said the buildings are used to dig tunnels under the border to Egypt.

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