Union Tribune

June 27, 2002 

Bush stance on Arafat not backed at summit

Palestinian people must determine their leader's fate, Blair,
others say in Canada


KANANASKIS, Canada President Bush made little headway
yesterday in winning support from key world leaders for his
demand earlier this week that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
step down from power.

With Bush insisting that Arafat's regime has become too tainted
with terrorism and corruption to be trusted, the Middle East
dominated the opening sessions of an annual political and
economic summit involving leaders from Russia, France, Italy,
Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany and the United States.

Meeting with reporters before a private session with British
Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush continued his rhetorical war
against Arafat, saying he was doing so as part of a broad effort "to
keep the pressure on countries which might not realize that
we're still serious."

While Blair and some of his colleagues said they were troubled
by Arafat's failure to curb Palestinian suicide bomb attacks
against Israeli civilians and his apparent ties to terrorist groups,
they expressed an unwillingness to substitute their judgments
for Palestinian voters who will go to the polls in presidential
balloting early next year.

With a pre-set agenda emphasizing the problems of nuclear
proliferation, terrorism, uncertain economic growth and African
poverty, the leaders turned their attention from the Middle East
long enough to endorse a cooperative effort to foil terrorist
attacks on the global transportation system.

The initiative came without cost estimates or deadlines, but it
suggests steps such as reinforcing flight deck doors in airliners
operated by carriers in the eight nations. Other steps will be
designed to safeguard airports, harbors, container ships and the
overland shipment of hazardous cargoes.

In the British campaign against Arafat, Blair, who said he has met
with the Palestinian leader about 30 times, acknowledged,
"There has been an attitude towards terrorism that is
inconsistent with the notion of Israel's security."

But he said that Arafat's continued grip on power is a matter for
his constituents to decide, although he added, "We've got to have
leadership we can negotiate with that is serious about peace and
resists and totally rejects terrorism."

Asked what his administration's response would be to an Arafat
victory in the upcoming elections, Bush said, "There needs to be
change. If people are interested in peace, something else has got
to happen."

Bush also warned that Arafat's continued tenure could result in a
cutoff of U.S. and possibly other allied aid to Palestinians,
saying, "I can assure you we won't be putting money into a
society which is not transparent and corrupt. And I suspect
other countries won't either."