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U.S. Condemns Terror, Urges Israeli Restraint

Aired March 29, 2002 - 13:42   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.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: If you're with us here in the last hour, you heard Secretary of State Colin Powell come out and make comments about the latest action in the Middle East, comments that were very critical of the Palestinians and not as critical, yet did have some warnings, to the Israelis. Let's go to our state department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, who is in our D.C. bureau today. Andrea, hello.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn. Well, if anybody was expecting Secretary Powell to come out with a balanced statement, they didn't hear that. What you heard, as you just mentioned, was have a very, very strong statement, a very critical statement by Secretary Powell of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. He didn't mention him by name but he really didn't need to. He made that very clear that the recent acts of terror that have been waged against Israeli citizens are -- have been waged by Palestinian terrorists.

On the other hand, Secretary Powell also made clear that the U.S., while it is not happy about the current situation, in fact, Secretary Powell said the U.S. was gravely concerned about the situation in Ramallah, those Israeli forces who are in Yasser Arafat's compound, at the same time, in Secretary Powell's words, Israel had to defend itself.

He did get assurances, he said, from the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, that Arafat would not be harmed, that Arafat would not be targeted. In Secretary Powell's words, he said, Arafat is the man. He is the leader of the Palestinian people and he's the guy who is going to lead his people out of here. But Secretary Powell also made clear that all of this as far as the Bush administration is concerned is being seen through the prism of the war against terrorism. Secretary Powell made -- also emphasized the fact that there is one thing that the U.S. will not stand for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Terrorism that targets innocent civilians have dealt a serious blow to the effort to achieve a cease-fire and to find a political solution to the crisis in the Middle East. Once again, terrorists have set back the vision of the Palestinian people for a state that would live in peace side by side with Israel. The United States government condemns these acts of terror and those responsible for them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: The man that he was referring to was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Secretary Powell himself said he has a call into Yasser Arafat but has as yet to speak with him today. We know that Anthony Zinni, the president's special Middle East envoy, who is on the ground in the region, has spoken with Yasser Arafat today. The message from the Bush administration, this is a broken record, but they're repeating it again: Yasser Arafat needs to act. The onus, Daryn, as far as the Bush administration is concerned is on Yasser Arafat to arrest these terrorists. They believe he is fully capable of doing so and to speak out strongly against terrorism, completely dismissing, in fact, you didn't even hear Secretary Powell make mention of Yasser Arafat's call yesterday for a unilateral cease-fire.

KAGAN: Yes. It was very clear that Secretary of State Powell saying that he's in touch certainly with Ariel Sharon and, as you said, put the phone call into Mr. Arafat and yet, he also declared he's not getting on a plane any time soon and heading to the Middle East to try to broker any peace here.

KOPPEL: No, he isn't. And he also made clear while nothing is off the table, the Bush administration really isn't considering right now any extraordinary measures, anything above what we've seen in recent weeks. Vice President Cheney was out in the region. Anthony Zinni is in the region. Secretary Powell said for now he's staying put. He is going to work the phones through the weekend. Others within the administration will be working the phones. They've got a very angry Arab world out there, Daryn, that they're trying to deal with right now, sure to be unhappy with the statements that the Bush administration is making because they're much more critical of Yasser Arafat than they are of Ariel Sharon.

KAGAN: Well, and not just those statements, but as you're mentioning, the level of involvement here. I mean, Anthony Zinni, not the highest ranking official that could be sent and, yes, the vice president was in the area, but he clearly went on that trip to the Middle East with a whole different agenda that ended up being overshadowed by this Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

KOPPEL: Exactly. And the Arab world is still very skeptical of the Bush administration's real intent here. Their question is is the Bush administration making the efforts that it's making right now because it really wants to invade Iraq and knows that it needs the support of some of the Arab world, or are they really there for the long haul? Are they really serious about trying to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and to invest political capital in it right now?

KAGAN: Well, we heard Secretary Powell say that after that news conference which he gave about an hour ago, he was going to head to the phones to talk to Prime Minister Sharon one more time. So, if more news comes out of that, we will check back with you.

KOPPEL: Absolutely.

KAGAN: We'll check back with you anyway. Andrea Koppel in Washington, D.C. Thank you so much.

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