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07 April 2002

National Security Advisor Says Israeli Withdrawal Must Begin Now

(President expects positive actions by Israel and Palestinians) (540)
By Howard Cincotta
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington, April 7 -- President Bush believes that the situation in
the Middle East "is now at a tipping point," and it is time for Israel
to begin a withdrawal from occupied areas and change the dynamics of
the situation, according to National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice.
Israel must begin this process, she said, "because the very
foundations for peace in the long term are at stake here."
Appearing on the ABC television program This Week, Rice said that the
President had spoken with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 6 and
made it very clear that Israel must begin military withdrawals
"without delay."
"There is no way to mistake the message of that phone call," Rice
said. The President also made clear, she added, "that he has, at the
core of everything he is saying, Israel's security not just in the
short-term, but Israel's well-being in the long-term."
"No one should try and parse the President's words," Rice warned,
noting that he said "withdraw without delay." At the same time, she
noted, President Bush understands that Israel has launched a
large-scale military operation, and "that it has to be unraveled in a
way that is not chaotic, but he expects the Israelis to begin to
withdraw."
Rice said that President Bush has made it clear that he has specific
expectations of both sides. As Israel pulls back its military forces,
the President expects the Palestinians and Arab governments to "step
up" and "to create an environment in which terrorism cannot flourish."
On his trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Colin Powell "has a
broad mandate to do whatever he needs to do to bring peace," Rice
said. However, she refused to speculate as to whether he would meet
with Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Rice said, "The Secretary's mandate is to go out and begin to rally
the world again around the principles for peace that we know are on
the table." She pointed out that, prior to the latest round of
terrorist attacks, U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni was making progress toward
a cease-fire, and the peace initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of
Saudi Arabia was gaining support in the Arab world and elsewhere.
The Saudi initiative, she noted, "would finally recognize Israel's
right to exist and bring about normal relations. Because the Arab
states are going to have to have normal relations with Israel in order
for a Palestinian state to exist."
Rice stressed that the obstacles facing Secretary Powell on this trip
are formidable. "We need the help of the parties in the region," she
said.
Rice refused to speculate about the possibility of economic sanctions
against Israel or an oil boycott against the United States and Europe.
"It's not helpful to threaten boycotts and to talk about embargos,"
she said. "There is a very clear path ahead here and what Secretary
Powell is going to do is to rally people to take their
responsibilities and to be able to move forward."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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