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Finger pointing follows Jerusalem bombing

A woman is rushed to safety after the attack.
A woman is rushed to safety after the attack.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Reaction to Friday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem was immediate: condemnation from the United States as Palestinian leaders and Israeli officials traded blame.

The blast came just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met to discuss the Israeli military's operation in the West Bank aimed at destroying the "terrorist infrastructure." Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- a military wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement -- claimed responsibility for the attack.

A Palestinian legislator blamed Sharon's policies. "We need to stop Sharon," said Hanan Ashrawi. "His lethal policies are drawing blood on both sides. That's why we need a serious intervention -- international troops. And we need to end the occupation if there is to be security for both people."

The Israeli government blamed Arafat. Government spokesman Gideon Meir told CNN, "I don't think Yasser Arafat can ever become a partner for any peace negotiations because he doesn't want peace. He wants to continue this terror. He's encouraged by the terror attacks."

"Hopefully the Palestinians will come to a conclusion that they need a different leadership, because it's for the Palestinians to decide who the leaders are going to be and who are going to lead them in order to really stop their suffering, and the suffering of the Israeli people," Meir said. "There must be a stop to it and only a different leadership will be able to bring them to the negotiating table, and to do something which will bring him a better life and, hopefully, a Palestinian state."

Powell, while traveling in northern Israel Friday, condemned the terror attack, but told CNN that as of now, no changes were planned in his schedule, which includes a meeting Saturday with Arafat.

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush "will not be deterred from seeking peace despite this attack. There are people who don't want peace. The president wants peace, and he'll make every effort to seek peace, and that's why the secretary is in the region."

A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said, "We condemn this latest bombing. There can never be any excuse for terrorism. This outrage underlines the need for both sides to engage seriously with Colin Powell," the statement said.




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