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Friday, 28 June, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
'Let down' by Arafat
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Yasser Arafat is a "let down" in the Middle East, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

In an attack on the leader of the Palestinian Authority he said: "The difficulty is, and I say this frankly, with President Arafat, is that it's not just the Israelis and Americans who feel let down by him, but so does virtually every foreign minister that I personally have ever spoken to."


It's not just the Israelis and Americans who feel let down by him

Jack Straw
The comments come on the same day as the Israeli army released a photo of what it claims is a Palestinian infant dressed up as a suicide bomber.

Yasser Arafat has come under severe criticism from the UK, the US and Israel for failing to take decisive action against terrorism or suicide bombers.

Progress

Mr Straw made it clear that Palestine must take action to move the peace process forward.

In an interview for BBC Hardtalk he said: "It does require the most unambiguous action by the Palestinian Authority to ensure that they do everything they can to bear down on suicide bombings.

"If we get into that position then a proper political process can start to take place."

Mr Straw also added that in a meeting with Nabil Shaath, Planning Minister for the Palestinian Authority, he had again stressed the need for them to take action or risk holding up the entire peace process.

US President George W Bush
Bush believes that Arafat should be replaced
"What I said to Nabil Shaath is this, 'Whether you like it or not the crucial thing that you've got to do in the Palestinian Authority is finally to prove to the world, but above all to Israelis and the United States, that you are doing everything you can conceivably can to stop the suicide bombings - because that is what's paralysing the whole of politics in the Middle East.

"If you can do that, if you can do that, then yes you can get a sequence going, but that is what's critical.' "

Developments

In a speech on Monday the President of the United States, George Bush had called for the creation of a Palestinian state on condition that Mr Arafat is removed from power.

Although the UK has refused to agree to this demand Mr Straw said he was confident that the speech could lead to positive developments in the peace process.

Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat
Arafat: Could there be an alternative?
"President Bush was indeed filling a vacuum, trying to provide some hope in a situation where hope had disappeared for many months because of the mounting crescendo of suicide bombings and then the military reaction of the Israelis."

"He talked for the first time for a United States president about the need for there to be a two state solution to the Middle East. A very secure state of Israel within recognised borders, recognised by the Arab world, and a secure and viable state of Palestine."

And he added that he hoped that this could halt the spiral of violence in the Middle East.

He said: The people of Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories are desperate for peace and they know that they can only achieve peace through a negotiated settlement."

You can watch the HARDtalk interview in full at the following times:

BBC News 24 (times shown in BST)
Friday, 28 June 0430, repeated 2230

BBC World (times shown in BST)
Friday, 28 June 0430, repeated 0930, 1130, 1630, 1930, 0030


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See also:

25 Jun 02 | UK Politics
26 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Middle East
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