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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
US sends mixed signals on Mid-East
Palestinians carry body after Israel's incursion in Ramallah
President Bush sees the conflict as part of the War on Terror
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By Jon Leyne
BBC correspondent in Washington
line

As the violence continues in the Middle East, there is growing pressure on President George Bush to intervene.

But the message from Washington has become increasingly confused.

President Bush continues to defend Israel's current military action.

President Bush talks of his stance on the Middle East in Philadelphia, USA
President Bush: Under pressure to step up mediation

At the same time, Colin Powell and the State Department bureaucracy work to try to restrain the Israeli Government.

Today Mr Powell called on the Israelis not to send Yasser Arafat into exile.

Pressure

"Sending him into exile will just give him another place from which to conduct the same kinds of activities and give the same messages he is giving now," he said.

"So, until he decides that he's going to leave the country, it seems to me we need to work with him where he is, and where he is in Ramallah."

Those sort of mixed messages have contributed to the pressure on the administration to take a more active role.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell: Calling on Israelis not to exile Yasser Arafat

The senior Democratic senators, Joe Biden and Joseph Lieberman, and the influential Republican Arlen Spector, have all been calling for more action by President Bush.

They want new political discussions to go alongside the ceasefire negotiations being pursued fruitlessly by the US mediator Anthony Zinni. Some people would also like Colin Powell himself to travel to the region.

War on terror

But the secretary of state has been left in an increasingly frustrating position. Every time he has tried to make a gesture towards Yasser Arafat it has been met with just more Palestinian violence.

And Mr Powell's hands are tied by the more hardline members of the administration, who want to cut off all ties with the Palestinian leader.

President Bush himself sees the Middle East conflict as part of the war on terror - with Yasser Arafat as a terrorist in all but name. Mr Bush feels he has no reason to change a largely pro-Israeli policy that has the overwhelming support of Congress and the American people.

"The polls are supporting what the president is doing, and they are also supporting what the Israelis are doing," explained Judith Kipper, a Middle East analyst in Washington. "Clearly, on a strategic level, the administration has made a decision that it is not now in the American interest to intervene more forcefully."

There is no sign that is about to change, much to the disappointment of most of America's allies.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
US President George Bush
"I have got a vision for the Middle East"
David Satterfield, US Asst. Sec. of State, Near East
"We don't believe there is a military solution to this crisis"
See also:

03 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israelis broaden West Bank offensive
01 Apr 02 | Middle East
Washington accuses Syria of terror role
30 Mar 02 | Middle East
US backs UN on Mid-East crisis
28 Mar 02 | Middle East
Bush condemns 'callous' killing
02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Arafat under attack
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