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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
Thousands in US rally for Israel
Pro-Israel demonstrators
Demonstrators urged stronger US support for Israel
Thousands of people have gathered at a mass rally in Washington in a show of support for Israel.

More than 1,200 busloads of demonstrators from more than 15 states and from neighbouring Canada joined the event on Capitol Hill.

The United States and Israel stand shoulder to shoulder in the war on terrorism

Barbara Mikulski, Democrat
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and members of the US Congress were among scheduled speakers.

The National Solidarity Rally for Israel was the latest in a series of demonstrations across the United States, as rival supporters of Israel and the Palestinians try to galvanise public opinion.

Mr Wolfowitz told the crowd that US President George W Bush "wants you to know that he stands in solidarity with you".

The rally was being held as US Secretary of State Colin Powell continued his mission to the Middle East to try to end soaring violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

'Double standards'

Some demonstrators were angry that Mr Powell had met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, whom Israel has branded as an enemy of the state.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu has been leading Israel's public relations campaign

"I thought sending Powell was a bow to the bombers," said New York Democrat congressman Anthony David Weiner.

"But that being said, I think President Bush has been for the first 13 months of his administration one of the best friends Israel has had," he said.

Mr Bush has avoided meeting Mr Arafat, while Mr Sharon has visited the White House four times since Mr Bush took office in January last year.

Many supporters of Israel have accused the United States of double standards in its fight against terrorism after the US called on Israel to cease its military operations in the West Bank.

Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, said: "The United States and Israel stand shoulder to shoulder in the war on terrorism. We both have suffered terrible losses, and we have both decided to fight those who dare to attack our people."

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Washington
"The organisers called this the largest pro-Israeli gathering ever seen in the USA"
See also:

16 Apr 02 | Americas
In pictures: US rally for Israel
15 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel 'to withdraw within a week'
09 Apr 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Bush's Israeli dilemma
15 Apr 02 | Middle East
Powell: Arafat not needed at talks
07 Apr 02 | Middle East
Anti-Israeli protests spread
05 Apr 02 | Middle East
Anti-Israeli anger sweeps Arab world
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israelis back Sharon
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