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Saturday, 13 April, 2002, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Arafat weighs his options
Bombing in Jaffa Road, Jerusalem
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade carried out the bombing
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By Barbara Plett
BBC correspondent in Ramallah
line
Yasser Arafat sits in his besieged compound weighing his options after Friday's Jerusalem suicide bombing.

The Americans are demanding a statement in Arabic renouncing and rejecting terrorism.

Yasser Arafat
The Palestinian people are rallying behind their leader
Without such a declaration, the Palestinian leader risks forfeiting his meeting with the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

But by setting conditions that Mr Arafat cannot meet, Washington also risks the failure of its mission.

From a Palestinian point of view, the situation is clear.

The West Bank has just been through two weeks of a lethal Israeli military operation.

There are accusations of a massacre in Jenin and permanent re-occupation is looming on the horizon.

People ask, how can Yasser Arafat unilaterally call for an end to terrorism?

The suicide bombings, they say, do not happen in isolation. They are a response to the army's attacks on Palestinian civilians.

Mr Arafat once faced growing internal criticism for helping to bring disaster on his people through bad leadership, sometimes encouraging the intifada, sometimes checking it, ultimately letting it slip out of his control.

But now he is enjoying almost unprecedented popular support for holding his ground against what are viewed as unreasonable demands and surrender.

Pressure on Israel

If the Palestinians ever meet Colin Powell, they want to hear whether his talk of a political process has any weight behind it, whether it is something they can offer the people as a way out of occupation.

But they want equally heavy US pressure on Israel to pull back its forces, so the Palestinian authority can rebuild and regain some control.

That is not happening - a sign maybe of conflicting views within the US administration.

Many there agree with Israel that it is impossible to make peace with Yasser Arafat, and they prefer to wait for an alternative leadership.

Colin Powell is one of the few voices advocating another chance for the Palestinian leader.

But by demanding what Mr Arafat cannot deliver, Mr Powell places his own mission in jeopardy.

Analysts here say that, even if Yasser Arafat bows to American pressure and declares a ceasefire, no-one would listen and no-one could enforce it.

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel stalls over troop withdrawal
11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jenin after the battle
10 Apr 02 | Middle East
Jerusalem's deserted streets
11 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arafat 'not a partner for peace'
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Vatican outrage over church siege
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