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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
US press split over Bush speech
President Bush delivering Monday's speech, with Secretary of State Powell and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld
President Bush's messages have split allies
President George W Bush's blueprint for peace in the Middle East - which called for a change in Palestinian leadership - has received mixed reviews in the United States.

But the press comments - favourable or critical - have not always come from expected quarters.


The speech represented a purposeful abandonment of neutrality by the administration, which now has largely adopted the stance of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Washington Post
In Mr Bush's Republican-dominated home state of Texas, an influential newspaper has criticised the speech. And commentators in Michigan - where the most influential Arab-American groups live - support the president's apparent call for the removal of Yasser Arafat.

In the leading national newspapers, however, there is a prevalent mood of scepticism.

One-sided

The Washington Post says Mr Bush's framework for peace is "tough on the Palestinians".

The speech, the paper says, boils down to a simple proposition: "Peace depends almost entirely on the Palestinians."

"In the plan outlined by the president," the paper says, "virtually any action required of the Israelis must be preceded by positive steps taken by the Palestinians."


The Palestinians have no future under Yasser Arafat. There is too much blood on his hands.

Detroit Free Press
The Washington Post concludes that "the speech represented a purposeful abandonment of neutrality by the [US] administration, which now has largely adopted the stance of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Arafat is no longer relevant to the peace process".

In an opinion piece printed by The New York Times, Dennis Ross - former President Clinton's envoy to the Middle East - agrees with Mr Bush's vision, but says he is "doubtful" it can be turned into a reality.

"It is far more an exhortation for reform than a plan," Mr Ross writes.

"What happens," he goes on, "if Yasser Arafat, still an important symbol for many Palestinians, is re-elected in free and fair elections early next year?... Will [Mr Bush] give the Palestinian people a way to achieve what they need to achieve?"

The paper reported that Mr Bush had decided to call for the Palestinian leader's removal after receiving intelligence information showing that he had authorised a $20,000 payment to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has claimed responsibility for several suicide bomb attacks.

'Failed leadership'

On the other hand, newspapers in Detroit, Michigan, have unambiguously praised Mr Bush's speech.

Yasser Arafat
The US wants to see Arafat removed
This is despite the fact that Detroit and nearby Dearborn are home to 300,000 Arab-Americans.

According to the Detroit Free press, Mr Bush "said aloud what has become increasingly clear in recent months: The Palestinians have no future under Yasser Arafat. There is too much blood on his hands. His leadership has failed".

And the Detroit News says the conditions laid by the president for a Palestinian state are reasonable.

"Peace will not come to the Middle East unless they are met. The Palestinians should now understand that they control their own fate."

Irony

In California, the Los Angeles Times is more reserved.

"No matter how contemptible Arafat may be, the US needs to tread warily in declaring who is, and is not, a proper leader of other countries or peoples," the paper says.

It adds: "What if the successor to Arafat is more militant? Would Bush refuse to deal with him or her as well?"

The Houston Chronicle in Texas is also among the sceptics.

"Ironically," it says, "the Bush proposal, insofar as it is seen to challenge Palestinian pride and autonomy, might have given Arafat exactly the popularity boost he needs among his people at exactly the time he needs it."


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26 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
26 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Media reports
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