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Palestinian Leader Claims to be Ready for Cease-fire

Aired March 28, 2002 - 15:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: In Israel, en route to Jerusalem right now, we mentioned the cabinet meeting the Israeli government was underway earlier today. A number of questions there about what happens now if indeed Israel responds. To Washington and Andrea Koppel, following this state department movements.

And, Andrea, last week when we saw the suicide bombing on Thursday, Colin Powell, under no uncertain terms, onboard Air Force One, called Yasser Arafat and said put an end to it immediately. That has not been the case, based on what Hamas carried out yesterday, and they have claimed responsibility. At this point, state department officials are saying what?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, Bill, I was on the phone with state department spokesman Richard Boucher when we had our news flash about Arafat's speech a short time ago. And Boucher said he needed to take a look at those words, but I can tell you if the past is any guide, the state department would likely welcome this as a positive sign, a step in the right direction.

But we have heard Secretary Powell, as recently as yesterday, and President Bush call on Yasser Arafat, demand that he do more than just talk about his cease-fire, but that he do as the Israeli spokesman was just pointing out there, put it into action. And General Zinni has been on the ground now for two weeks. There were encouraging signs yesterday that the two sides were moving towards the cease-fire. But then -- then the terrorist attack happened yesterday afternoon in Israel, and that sort of obviously scuddled the progress that was made.

One has to wonder, Bill, about the timing of Yasser Arafat's announcement, that he would agree to an unconditional cease-fire, this happening on the eve of what could be a massive Israeli retaliation. No one rally knows right now. And so you can bet that the state department is working on its guidance right now, trying to coordinate with the White House just how to respond to this gesture by Yasser Arafat. But certainly, it seems, at least on the surface, to be one step in the right direction, but not all of what the U.S. and the Israelis have been demanding Yasser Arafat do.

HEMMER: All right. Andrea, thanks. Andrea Koppel in Washington.

Let's go quickly to Texas and Major Garrett. President Bush, both today and yesterday, denouncing once again the violence. In his words, it was a cold-blooded killing and callous yesterday. Right now, much reaction yet, Major?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Bill. And here's the reason why. The president just getting back here to Crawford from a brief trip up to Dallas to raise some money for a Republican Senate candidate. He's pretty lightly staffed here in Crawford. Top Bush administration officials are in Washington doing exactly what Andrea just suggested, going over entirely all of Mr. Arafat's statements, seeing what there is worthy of reaction from the White House and the state department.

And if I could, I would build on what Mike Hanna and Andrea said. These are trilateral talks, Bill. That means there are three parties involved in pursuit of a cease-fire, the Israeli government, the U.S. government and the Palestinian Authority. And I think it is pretty fair to say that when a cease-fire is achieved, you will see representatives of all three participants in those dialogues, those negotiations, there together saying not only has a cease-fire been achieved, but here is how it will be implemented. That is far, far from what we have seen today. A declaration of intent on the part of the Palestinian leadership and the person of Yasser Arafat, but not the three parties there saying, yes, in fact, we have achieved a cease-fire. Here is how it is going to be implemented. Here are all the underlying conditions. Here are all the devilish details which is exactly parties have been working on for the past two or three days.

But I think it is fair to say that we have seen so far is an indication, I think Andrea is exactly right, moving in a positive direction. How big a step, very hard to know right now. But I would say based on everything I've been told by White House officials up to now, it's only an incremental step and a pretty small one.

HEMMER: And listening to Ra'anan Gissin, he would probably agree with that. Major, thanks. Major Garrett, Crawford, Texas there on the presidential ranch.

We will follow this. We won't leave it for long. We'll let you know as we get more developments.

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