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Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 00:20 GMT
US plea to halt Mid-East carnage
A dead Palestinian man lies in front of an Israeli armoured tank
Arab leaders have called an emergency UN meeting
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has called for restraint by Israel and the Palestinians, condemning "terrorist attacks" and cautioning Israel about its military response.

While we understand the Israeli Government need to respond to these acts of terror... we call on Prime Minister Sharon and his government to carefully consider the consequences of those actions

US Secretary of State Colin Powell

Mr Powell said he had spoken to Mr Sharon by phone and was planning to talk to Mr Arafat, in a day of intense diplomacy that would also include talks with Mr Annan and European and Arab leaders.

He condemned the Passover suicide bombings which have outraged Israelis.

"Once again, terrorists have set back the vision of the Palestinian people for a state that would live in peace side by side with Israel," he said.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Powell said "guarded optimism" had been destroyed by the violence
There had been "guarded optimism," with the Arab League backing a Saudi land-for-peace proposal and Mr Zinni making advances, but the bombs had brought this to a halt, Mr Powell said.

He urged Mr Arafat to make it clear to his people that the violence had to end, while stressing that the US was also mindful of action taken by the Israelis.


"While we understand the Israeli Government need to respond to these acts of terror and the right of the Israeli Government to decide what actions best serve the interests of the Israeli people, we call on Prime Minister Sharon and his government to carefully consider the consequences of those actions," Mr Powell said.

Though Israel wanted to isolate Mr Arafat, Mr Powell said he had received assurances that the government would not try to harm or capture him.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Arafat: Still supported as Palestinian leader by the international community
"Chairman Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian people, and his leadership is now even more central to trying to find a way out of this tragic situation," he said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said it was essential that the US should seek to implement a ceasefire to prevent further violence.

"We hope US intervention will be commensurate with its responsibility to bring about comprehensive peace," he said.

A Saudi peace initiative was backed by the Arab world at a summit in Beirut on Thursday, but was rejected by Israel.

Other reaction:

  • Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said: "What Sharon is doing is a foolish, illegal action and a message of war and aggression against Arabs in response to a message of peace from the Arabs"

  • Lebanon - which hosted this week's Arab summit - accused Israel of barbarous aggression

  • French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine accused Mr Sharon of trying to "stifle" Mr Arafat

  • Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned isolating Mr Arafat was "not the way that could help find a political solution to the current situation"

  • A spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Mr Arafat remained the legitimate Palestinian authority and military action would not solve the problem of terrorism.

  • China's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue, urged both Israel and the Palestinians to stop violence.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"There is a fear that events are slipping out of control"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
"President Bush and his national security advisors will be following this on an hour by hour basis"
See also:

28 Mar 02 | Middle East
Bush condemns 'callous' killing
28 Mar 02 | Middle East
Arabs offer Israelis peace plan
28 Mar 02 | Middle East
Arafat row overshadows summit successes
27 Feb 02 | Middle East
What is in the Saudi peace initiative?
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