U.S. criticizes top Arafat aides for absence at security talks
- U.S. criticizes top Arafat aides for absence at security talks
The Associated Press
[May 31, 01] WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is upset that aides to Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat failed to attend U.S.-organized security talks with Israel this week.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday that the absence of the Palestinian
leaders' security aides was at odds with an understanding reached with Arafat.
Privately, other officials said the absence of Jibril Rajoub, who is in charge of West Bank
security, from a meeting Tuesday, and Mohamed Dahlan, who supervises Gaza, hampered efforts to
arrange a mutual cease-fire.
As a result, U.S. diplomats canceled a meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, that was designed to
implement the recommendations of a fact-finding commission headed by former Sen. George Mitchell.
A new round of security talks is being arranged by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, but it will be held
at a lower level because there is no assurance Rajoub and Dahlan would attend if senior level talks
The main goals in the talks are halting Palestinian mortar attacks on Israeli towns and persuading
Israel to hold its fire when attacked to give U.S. diplomats more time to restrain the Palestinians.
The U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “the United States preferred having
Palestinian officials empowered to scale down violence in the meetings.”
Also, the officials said, “the senior security officials had said they would be at the meetings.”
Boucher, in openly criticizing the Palestinian Authority, said “as we were arranging these meetings
we understood from Chairman Arafat that all senior Palestinian security chiefs will attend.”
“Unfortunately, we continue to be disappointed that not all the key Palestinian officials are, in
fact, attending these meetings,” Boucher said.
“We recognize it's very difficult for some of these individuals and for the parties to address, but
we think it's essential that both sides start the process of implementing the Mitchell committee
recommendations and get on with the process of ending the violence, restoring confidence and
The frustration underscored the difficulty encountered by William Burns, the American diplomat
assigned to finding agreement on ending the latest Palestinian uprising and Israel's use of force to
try to suppress it.
Burns warned this week that the continuation of violence threatens to overtake efforts to implement
the Mitchell commission's recommendations.
Palestinians are demanding a freeze on all construction at Jewish settlements. That is a key
recommendation of the Mitchell Commission report, and Secretary of State Colin Powell has endorsed
However, Powell has insisted on a cease-fire without any preconditions.