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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Powell defends Bush plan for Arafat
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell is seen as a moderate in the Bush administration
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has defended President Bush's tough policy towards the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, saying it may have "jarred some nerves" but it had strong international support.

The president delivered his long-awaited recipe for progress in the Middle East last Monday, at the heart of which was a call for Palestinians to elect a "new and different leadership... not compromised by terror".


If Palestinians don't make the right kind of choices, it is not possible to move [to their own state]

Colin Powell
"Most of the Arab nations have put out positive statements with respect to the vision that the president had in his speech... It may have upset some people, but it is the reality," Mr Powell said in an interview with the Associated Press.

He said Mr Arafat had earned the president's rebuke because there was "a price to be paid" for his perceived inaction over terrorism and reform of his administration.

"It must begin with all parties recognising that terrorism must end, terrorism must not be allowed to pay, that people have to defend themselves against terrorism," Mr Powell said.

The secretary of state said evidence that Mr Arafat had authorised payment of a group that carried out a suicide bombing against Israel had hardened the Bush administration's resolve to turn to other Palestinian leaders.

White House dove

Mr Powell has been seen as one of the more conciliatory members of the US administration regarding the Palestinians and their leader, and last week's presidential statement was seen by analysts as a victory for administration hawks led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Arafat portrait in Ramallah clinic
Arafat remains the most popular Palestinian leader
Now the secretary of state has said the US will do "what we can" to help the Palestinians establish their own state, but only if the Palestinians do what Washington wants.

"We're going to talk about a process that will lead to a state within three years, if we can move in the right direction and if you make the right kind of choices. And if you don't make the right kind of choices, it is not possible to move in this direction."

Saudi Arabia has meanwhile made public its opposition to the new Bush policy.

The head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Nawaf bin Abdul-Aziz, told the London-based Saudi newspaper Sharq al-Awsat that Washington's opposition to the Palestinian leadership made it a party to the conflict and complicated the path to peace.

He added that the Kingdom was against any intervention in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.

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