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Powell blames terrorists for blocking peace

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Secretary of State Colin Powell  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell blamed "terrorism in its rawest form" Friday for derailing the peace process, and called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to act against the terrorists even though Israeli troops were only steps from Arafat's office.

The secretary said that in recent weeks "there was reason for guarded optimism. And let us be clear about what brought it all to a halt -- terrorism."

"We have spoken out clearly and do so again now," he said. "Chairman Arafat has to act, act against those responsible, to make clear terror and violence must stop now. All those who support peace must reinforce this message."

Israeli tanks and troops took over much of Arafat's compound Friday, blowing down gates and punching holes in the walls.

Arafat's aides said he had been moved to a second floor office in his headquarters building, where he continued to make calls to world leaders.

While saying the United States is "gravely concerned" by Israeli actions in Ramallah, Powell said the United States understands the need of Israel to protect itself after a string of terror attacks.

Powell said U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni will remain in the region in an attempt to work with both sides on a cease-fire.

He said Zinni had generally felt optimistic about the progress he was making until a suicide bomber carried out a terror attack Wednesday in Netanya that killed 22 Israelis plus the bomber.

Powell said the Israelis have said they do not intend to reoccupy Ramallah but to arrest terrorists and pick up weapons.

He said Israeli officials had told the United States they do not intend to harm or capture Arafat.

And he said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had been asked to "carefully consider the consequences of those actions" in responding to the terror attacks.

"The political process is there staring us in the face," said Powell, but he added, "Nothing can get started, no political process can take hold, in the presence of this type of terrorist activity."




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