By Kenneth R. Bazinet, January 28, 2002
Vice President Cheney called Yasser Arafat a liar yesterday over his denial that
he had anything to do with an Iranian arms shipment to the Palestinians.
Pressure is mounting on President Bush to cut ties with Arafat over his
failure to stop the violence in the Middle East.
And Arafat, worried about the increasingly harsh words coming from
Washington, personally wrote Bush to deny he knew about a massive arms
shipment intercepted by Israeli commandos.
“We don’t believe him,” Cheney told “Fox News Sunday.” Cheney also accused
Arafat of being in cahoots with terror groups, but stopped just short of calling
him a terrorist.
“One of the most disturbing events recently has been the discovery of
this Karine A ship, a ship trying to move 50 tons of military equipment,”
“What he’s done is gone to a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and a
state that supports and promotes terrorism … and done business with
them,” Cheney added.
He said the U.S. has made “it abundantly clear that Arafat has to take action,”
Cheney said. “He knows what he has to do to be taken seriously.”
Much of the latest spate of violence has been blamed on an armed group linked
to Arafat’s Fatah faction.
Yesterday, a group of Fatah men stormed a prison in Bethlehem and
freed six of their family members jailed for militant activity.
An Israeli government spokesman blamed the Palestinian Authority for
“I expect it’s part of their ‘revolving-door’ policy on jailing militants,”
said Raanan Gissin. “If they don’t let them out themselves, then they let them
Bush dismisses Arafat speech
By Barry Schweid, Washington Post, January 28, 2002
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration kept the heat on Yasser Arafat on
Monday, refusing to accept recent overtures by the Palestinian leader as any
clear or serious call for curbing terror. “So far, Yasser Arafat has not done what
he knows he has to do,” said Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney, leveling the most direct accusation against Arafat yet, also said that
the Palestinian leader “clearly was involved – or people very close to him were
clearly involved” in an arms-smuggling plot with Iran. “My own personal view is
that it would not have happened without (Arafat’s) knowledge,” the vice
president told NBC News.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Arafat, in a
speech Saturday, appeared to leave open the possibility of escalating violence
against Israel. “We don’t think that kind of talk is helpful,” Boucher said.
And the White House dismissed as inadequate a statement by the Palestinian
Cabinet that finance official Fuad al-Shobaki, who was implicated in a plot to
smuggle 50 tons of weapons from Iran to the Palestinians, had been moved
from house arrest to a prison in Arafat’s West Bank compound.
Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said the step was not enough.
“There have been arrests made before, where just as soon as people
were arrested, they were let out through the back door of the jail cell,” he said.
Fleischer said “the burden remains on Chairman Arafat to make
continued concrete steps so there can be no question that Chairman Arafat is
dedicated to eliminating terrorism in the region and the president has not yet
seen such steps.”
Meanwhile, President Bush telephoned President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to
assure the Arab leader that the administration remains committed to Mideast
peacemaking even while condemning Arafat and suspending a peacemaking
mission by American mediator Anthony Zinni.
“I told him that in order for there to be peace in the Middle East, we
must rout out terrorism wherever it exists,” Bush said of the 15-minute
The two leaders “emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the
region. They both reaffirmed their commitment to work toward this end and
they also agreed to continue close consultations between the United States and
Egypt,” Fleischer said.
Bush also made clear to Mubarak his disappointment with Arafat and his failure
to crack down on terrorism, Fleischer said.
Mubarak is expected to send Osama al-Baz, his veteran adviser on the
Arab-Israeli dispute, to Washington for talks.
On Thursday, King Abdullah II of Jordan plans to meet with Secretary of State
Colin Powell in Washington. He will call on Bush Friday morning.
In a speech Saturday, Arafat said Palestinians were “facing a military crisis, but
despite all this, no one has complained of the suffering. They have said, ‘God is
great, and jihad, jihad, jihad,” Arafat said.
Reacting for the State Department, Boucher said, “We need to see both positive
statements and decisive action from Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian
Authority to help contribute to this critical goal. And I’d say some of the
phrases quoted over the weekend probably don’t do that.” Bush met last Friday
with his senior security advisers to consider what to do about Arafat and
repeated Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians. A suspension of U.S. contact
and closing of the Palestinian office in Washington were among the options
considered, but no decision was reached over the weekend.
Bush publicly accused Arafat of “enhancing terror” and pressed him to accept
responsibility for the arms being smuggled on a ship that Israeli commandos
intercepted Jan. 3 in the Red Sea.