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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Powell Joins Bush in Ditching Arafat

WASHINGTON -- The United States pressed on with its effort to force the removal of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Sunday, with Secretary of State Colin Powell saying Washington was not talking to Arafat now and had no plans to in the future.

"I worked for 18 months to try to put in place a plan that would allow Chairman Arafat to demonstrate his leadership," Powell told CBS's "Face the Nation." "We would have been way along if the violence had been brought down. Chairman Arafat simply did not seize any of these opportunities to bring the violence under control.

"Moreover, after the Israelis pulled back from the recent occupation ... we thought maybe we have some movement," said Powell. "What we saw instead were more bombing. Bombing after bombing after bombing after bombing, day after day. Frankly, we also saw continuing indications that there was complicity with the senior levels in the Palestinian Authority."

Suicide bombings killed 26 Israelis last week.

"At the moment, we are not dealing with him," said Powell on "Fox News Sunday." Asked if the United States would resume contacts with Arafat, Powell said: "I don't expect so."

In a speech spelling out his plan to end 21 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence, U.S. President George W. Bush called last week for a new Palestinian leadership to pave the way for a Palestinian state and a final settlement within three years. But the price was to cast Arafat aside. The United States appears nearly alone internationally in being convinced that Arafat must go.

In a statement issued after a summit in Canada, the Group of Eight industrial nations said Palestinians must adopt democracy but failed to support the call to replace Arafat. British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed frustration with Arafat but did not call for his removal. "It's for the Palestinians to elect the people that they choose to elect," said Blair, the closest U.S. ally.

And Saudi Arabia, Washington's main Gulf Arab ally, opposes replacing Arafat, the head of Saudi intelligence said in an interview published Saturday.

Prince Nawaf bin Abdul-Aziz told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that Bush could complicate Middle East peace efforts by demanding that Palestinians dump the leader they elected in 1996.

"The kingdom is against any intervention in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. We must leave it to them to decide who their president is and not to have any power such as the United States impose one on them," Nawaf said.

Arafat himself offered Sunday to meet with Bush "any time, anywhere" to promote Middle East peace.

"I would like to meet President Bush any time at a place of his choice so we can work toward comprehensive peace," Arafat, speaking by satellite link, told an audience of businessmen and politicians in the Swiss mountain resort of Crans Montana.

"Of course we are against terrorism, we are making every effort to end terrorist acts, particularly against Israel," he said in reply to a question.

Arafat has called elections for January 2003 and declared himself a candidate. Opinion polls put him in the lead.

Pressed on how Washington would react if Arafat won in January, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press": "The fact is that if a leadership emerges that will not deal with the problem of terrorism, the United States can do nothing to move this process forward."