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CNN BREAKING NEWS

White House Awaiting Official Word of Palestinian/Israeli Cease-Fire

Aired June 25, 2003 - 12:08   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to the White House now, our Dana Bash is standing by. Over there, Dana, I know it's very early but U.S. officials are been intimately involved -- aggressively involved -- in trying to get some sort of start to this road map towards peace. Are you getting any initial reaction from your sources at the White House?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

What they're saying here at the White House is that they have yet to be told by official channels. They're certainly well aware of the press reports of this cease-fire agreement. But White House officials are saying they waiting to hear from, quote, people who matter, namely, perhaps Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas or some of his top deputies.

It is somewhat noteworthy that Jerrold Kessel was reporting that the cease-fire agreement was delivered to Yasser Arafat. Of course, you're well aware that Yasser Arafat has no formal connection, no formal communication lines with the White House at this time. Mahmoud Abbas isn't sure the White House is manned so they're reserving judgment, reserving any comment until they get the official word.

But, Wolf, as you were saying, the cease-fire is, of course, the number one step as far as the White House is concerned to start getting on the road to the road map starting the peace process in earnest, but the White House has also been pretty clear that not only as far as they're concerned do they need a cease-fire, but they also need to start dismantling the terrorist groups in the Palestinian areas and the Palestinian territories.

And as it happens, there are senior members of the European Union, Wolf, here right now, meeting behind closed doors, behind me in the White House, with the president of the United States, with the vice president, the Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other senior officials.

The EU was, of course, a co-author of the road map to peace. And the president was already planning on bringing up the issue of Mideast peace specifically the president, according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, was going to press the EU for -- to tell them to tell some of their members in Europe to start cracking down on funding for Hamas.

Hamas, the president believes, is first and foremost a terrorist organization, it is an organization, the White House believes that might do some good work, but because they're involved in terrorism, there must be a stop to the funding, and they're concerned at White House that some key European nations are not doing enough to crack down in their own countries of sending money to Hamas. That was on the agenda at White House.

But again, Wolf, in terms of the cease-fire, we are waiting formal word, formal acknowledgment of it, and we are going to shortly hear from White House spokesman Ari Fleischer in his daily briefing. So perhaps we'll get more then -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll be monitoring that briefing. Ari Fleischer, the press secretary at the White House, expected shortly to emerge in the briefing room. CNN, of course, will have coverage of that.

Dana Bash at the White House are thanks very much. We'll have much more of this breaking story of potential cease-fire involving three Palestinian militant groups in Gaza and the West Bank. To see if this road made toward peace can get off the ground. We're going to get back that shortly.

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