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US Says Arafat Must Cede Control of Security Forces (REUTERS) By Vicki Allen WASHINGTON 09/07/03 02:10 PM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3400758
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. leaders, responding to the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, on Sunday blamed Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for hindering progress toward Middle East peace and said he must relinquish control of security forces.
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But they opposed any expulsion of Arafat, which has been urged by some Israeli officials, saying this could give the veteran Palestinian leader a wider stage to work from.
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White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Arafat had "hamstrung" Abbas in his efforts to control the security forces and urged the Palestinian Authority to "get an empowered prime minister and let him work."
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Washington has said that despite the setback of Abbas´s resignation it remains committed to the "road map" peace plan introduced this summer and which was being pushed strongly by President Bush.
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Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell said whoever is Palestinian prime minister must have control over security forces and the political backing to confront groups they branded as terrorists to move toward a Palestinian state.
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"On the security front, the Palestinian Authority has been hamstrung, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister and his team, have been hamstrung by internal bickering inside the Palestinian Authority," Rice said on "Fox News Sunday."
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"It´s not surprising, Yasser Arafat has been an obstacle to peace before, he´s an obstacle to peace now," she said.
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Powell, appearing on ABC´s "This Week," said, "Whoever becomes head of the Palestinian Authority must have under his control all of the security forces and he must have a solid political mandate from the PLC (Palestinian legislative council) to go after terrorist organizations."
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Abbas, a moderate appointed by Arafat in April under U.S. pressure, submitted his resignation on Saturday.
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In Ramallah, Arafat told his Fatah faction in a closed-door meeting on Sunday that he wanted parliamentary speaker Ahmed Korei as his next prime minister, a senior Palestinian official said.
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U.S. Middle East expert Dennis Ross described Korei as "someone who deeply believes in peace with Israel, who is against violence." But Ross said "the issue is not who is the prime minister, the issue is whether he´s going to be constrained by Arafat."
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CALLS FOR ARAFAT´S EXPULSION?
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Powell said the Bush administration "did everything we could to support" Abbas. But he said, "Mr. Arafat and other authorities within the Palestinian community did not give Mr. Abbas the resources that he needed in order to go after Hamas," the militant Palestinian organization.
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Powell disagreed with calls by senior Israeli officials for Arafat´s expulsion.
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"I don´t think there´s any purpose in doing it right now. What purpose would it serve? To give him a broader stage to operate from outside of the region?" Powell said on ABC.
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But Powell ruled out negotiating with Arafat until a prime minister is in place. "He is not an interlocutor for peace. He´s demonstrated that over the years," he said on NBC´s Meet the Press.
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Powell said he was "very pleased" that the European Union on Saturday said it will declare all wings of Hamas a terrorist organization, clearing the way to freeze its assets.
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He also said that the United States continued to oppose Israel´s policy of assassinating Hamas leaders, saying on NBC that Washington has warned Israel that it may be "creating more Hamas killers in the future by actions such as this, which injure innocent people."
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On Saturday, an Israeli missile hit Gaza in an apparent assassination bid against wheelchair-bound Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Yassin was only slightly injured, and the militant Islamic group vowed revenge. (© Reuters 2003 09/07/03)
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