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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Sharon courts US leaders
Israeli helicopter flies above the mosque at the devastated Jenin refugee camp
Bush wants the Israelis to leave all Palestinian-ruled areas
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By Jon Leyne
BBC Washington correspondent
line

The Israeli leader, Ariel Sharon, is in Washington for a series of talks that will culminate in a meeting with President Bush on Tuesday.


It is crystal clear that Arafat can't be a partner for peace again... there is no place for doubts after you read this report

Israeli cabinet minister Danny Naveh
The two men are expected to discuss the US proposals for a peace conference in a few weeks' time.

But as Mr Sharon arrived for his fifth meeting with Mr Bush, the Israeli Government added another twist to this friendly, but fraught relationship.

Israel produced new documents it said implicated Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in organising and financing terrorism.

Danny Naveh, a member of the Israeli cabinet, said the documents showed they should not be dealing with the Palestinian leader.

Palestinians in Gaza burn the Israeli and US flags
Sharon says he is taking a plan to end the conflict to Washington
"It is crystal clear that Arafat can't be partner for peace again and if you want to achieve peace and to move ahead for better days of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, there is no place for doubts after you read this report," Mr Naveh said.

"There is hard evidence here that Arafat himself is involved in terrorist activities and that he is not, he can't be partner for peace again."

Blame game

Members of the Bush administration could hardly hide their frustration at the surprise Israeli move.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice tried to put a positive spin on events, saying Mr Sharon's visit was "an extremely important opportunity to talk with a close friend and ally".

The Israeli leader is not the most popular visitor to the White House. Tuesday's meeting with the president could be a tough one

"We have a lot to talk about, because a lot has happened in the last few weeks and this will be an opportunity to share ideas - for the president and the prime minister to chart a way ahead - and that's really the key to this meeting," she said. Washington would like this visit to be about the peace conference it is trying to organise, not the blame game.

Secretary of State Colin Powell made it clear to the Israelis what the United States was looking for, saying his assessment of the situation in the region was awaited.
Aftermath of suicide bomb attack in northern Israel in March
The Israeli Government has the overwhelming support of the US Senate

"In all of my recent conversations with Prime Minister Sharon - even after he has had to respond forcefully to the terrorism directed against the Israeli people - he has made it clear that he is committed to a peace process, he is committed to ultimately finding a way to have a Palestinian state that lives side by side with Israel," Mr Powell said.

But, as Mr Sharon is only too aware, he has the overwhelming support of the US Congress.

Just a couple of days ago the Senate voted to back him by 94 to two.

Many members of Congress are openly critical of President Bush's recent attempt to get the Israelis to withdraw from the West Bank.

Behind the usual declarations of eternal friendship, President Bush is deeply frustrated by the actions of Mr Sharon.

The Israeli leader is not the most popular visitor to the White House.

Tuesday's meeting with the President could be a tough one.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Leyne
"There could be some very big disagreements"
See also:

05 May 02 | Middle East
US criticises Arafat's leadership
03 May 02 | Middle East
Q&A: Middle East peace conference
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