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Sunday, 5 May, 2002, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
US criticises Arafat's leadership
Yasser Arafat greets supporters in Ramallah
Arafat is no longer besieged but his future is uncertain
A top official in the Bush administration has said that Yasser Arafat's leadership is not the right one for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian leadership... is not the kind that can lead to the kind of Palestinian state that we need

Condoleezza Rice
US national security adviser
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Mr Arafat had not been meeting his responsibilities and needed to change the way he runs the Palestinian Authority. But she said it was up to the Palestinian people to choose their own representatives.

Correspondents say many of President Bush's more right-wing supporters, including some senior Congressmen, would like to see America cut its ties with Yasser Arafat.

Ms Rice was speaking just before the arrival in Washington of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who is due to hold talks with President George W Bush on Tuesday.

US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
Rice's tough line does not mean the US wants to jettison Arafat just yet

Mr Sharon is reported to be carrying with him a 91-page report which the Israelis say links Mr Arafat to recent suicide bombings.

"We are going to be very clear that the Palestinian leadership that is there now, the Authority, is not the kind of leadership that can lead to the kind of Palestinian state that we need," said Ms Rice.

The administration would examine Mr Sharon's documents on the Palestinian leader, she added.

"I assume that the Israeli prime minister is going to give the documents that he believes to be true," she said. "That's good enough for us."

The BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington, however, that the open hostility towards Mr Arafat expressed by Ms Rice and other US officials does not mean the Bush administration is about to abandon him.

When Mr Sharon sees President Bush on Tuesday, he is likely to be politely but firmly told that, for the time being, the administration is keeping Yasser Arafat in the frame.

Israel's obligations

Ms Rice said there was a "window of opportunity" for a political solution to the Middle East conflict but the US would be asking Arab and European states to put pressure on Mr Arafat.

Jewish settlers
The settler issue goes to the heart of the conflict
Mr Arafat has welcomed a US proposal for an international peace conference in the summer - although he said he would have to consult Arab leaders before accepting.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that while Mr Sharon's case against Mr Arafat would be considered, the Israelis would have to make progress on the ground.

"Something has to be done" about Jewish settlements, he said, and he was sceptical about Israeli plans to fence off the Palestinian territories.

"I don't know if you're going to solve the problem with a fence unless you're solving the underlying problems of the Palestinians feeling disenfranchised," he said.

Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Adviser
"The Palestinian leadership that is there now is not the kind of leadership that can lead to a state we need"
Ariel Sharon's senior advisor, Zalman Shoval
"The pre-condition for everything is that there must be an absolute stop to terror"
See also:

04 May 02 | Middle East
Arafat faces calls for reform
03 May 02 | Middle East
Q&A: Middle East peace conference
02 May 02 | Middle East
Arafat: The great survivor
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