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Secretary of State Powell Condemns Jerusalem Suicide Bombing

Aired August 9, 2001 - 13:36   ET


STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Today's attack is not just a tragedy for all the people involved there. It is the latest indication of how little achieved by the various parties who have tried to make peace there. The United States is high on the list.

Joining us with some observations is CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, thanks for joining us today.


FRAZIER: Sort of a defining moment now for the president, who has been trying to stay away from the Middle East.

SCHNEIDER: For the Middle East, yes. He's been, more or less, staying on sidelines, although the director of the CIA did negotiate the cease-fire, which seems to be virtually meaningless. The situation deteriorates day by day.

So the question is will the United States get more engaged in the Middle East to bring the parties together, or will we continue to say the parties need to come together to implement the George Mitchell- sponsored peace plan.

It doesn't look like they are going to do that unless the United States becomes more directly engaged.

FRAZIER: Isn't there a difference of opinion about what constitutes the proper prerequisites for the Mitchell Peace Plan? We don't even have an agreement on the terms of the engagement.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. The prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, has said that he will not sit down and start talking about a peace plan until there is complete cessation...

FRAZIER: I'm sorry, Bill, to interrupt.

I'd like to turn it over to Donna right away, for some breaking news.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Really quickly to Secretary of State Powell -- let's listen.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES: This kind of violence gets us nowhere. We have a way out of this crisis. It's called the Mitchell plan, and we can get into the Mitchell plan if we can get the violence down.

So I am pleased that Chairman Arafat condemned the violence, but now he has to find those responsible and bring them to justice, and I hope that both sides will act with restraint. This is a very dangerous situation and it's not going to be solved except by the parties in the region.

We are doing everything we can. I spoke to Chairman Arafat this morning, I have a call in to Prime Minister Sharon, I have talked to Secretary General Annan and Foreign Minister Louis Michel of Belgium, the EU presidency, and I've talked to Mr. Solana.

So we're trying to mobilize the international community to give that message once again, that the solution to the problem exists with the parties in the region, and they both have to do everything they can to reduce the violence, reduce the provocations and the counter- response to provocations, otherwise we're just going to continue to find a more difficult situation facing us tomorrow and the day after.

QUESTION: Did anyone that you talked to encourage you to come to the region?

POWELL: No. I'll go anywhere where it makes some sense to go, if there is something to do. But at this point everybody knows what has to be done: The violence has to be brought down. And we have been delivering that message consistently.

There isn't a day goes by that I'm not in contact with somebody in the region or somebody with a concern about this. And so there's no question about where we stand, there's no question about our engagement, but we can't take our eye off the ball and off the problem, the problem is in the region, and the two sides have to get the violence down.

Once they do that, get into the Mitchell report implementation, there are ways for the United States to be of additional help with respect to security, but it begins with the two parties in the region and no one else.

Thank you.

KELLEY: Secretary of State Colin Powell, with comments there, following the suicide bombing in Jerusalem today.

As we told you earlier, here on CNN, a suicide bomber, an explosion, in a restaurant in central Jerusalem. It was lunchtime -- very crowded. At least 15 people dead at last count, including the suicide bomber. Also killed, at least six of those were infants. And about 88 people were injured at our last count.

Secretary of State Powell said the violence gets us nowhere, it has got to be brought down, and that there is a way out, called the Mitchell Plan. He has talked to or had calls to many of the players in the region. He said it's good that Chairman Arafat of the Palestinian Authority condemns the violence, but he has to follow through. He said it's up to the parties in the region to get going on this process, that it's very dangerous, and that they must get in there and get the violence down -- that he would go anywhere, if it made some sense, but the violence has to be brought down, and not a day goes that Secretary Powell doesn't talk to somebody who is not concerned about what's going on there.

He said there's no question about their engagement, that they have got to get the violence down, and then the United States could step in even more -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Donna, to hear those very important statements from Secretary of State Powell, we had to interrupt our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, it's uncanny: The secretary almost completed your own sentence there as he was getting into the preconditions for the implementation of the Mitchell Report. You were starting to explain that the two sides there view this as different preconditions.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. The Sharon government says that he cannot get involved in any peace talks until they get the violence down, which was echoed by the secretary of state's remarks just now.

Look, the question is this: Look what the United States has done. We sent the CIA director to negotiate a cease-fire, which is there on paper, although it's not very effective. We have supported the Mitchell Peace Plan, a deal with certain steps specified; that's there on paper. And yet the violence continues to escalate, with terrible tragedies like the one we just reported today.

The question is very simple: Is the United States able to do anything more to get the violence down, or do we take the position that we're going to stand aside and wait for the violence to subside? It, clearly, is not subsiding.

FRAZIER: Indeed. This might be a call for multilateral action, Bill. Why is that the United States always seems to be operating alone there, not with its European allies, for example?

SCHNEIDER: There was some discussion on multilateral action. A multilateral monitoring force was discussed at the general summit last month in Italy by the G8 major industrial nations, but the Israelis did not support that initiative. They didn't like the idea of European nations monitoring the cease-fire; they don't trust the European nations. They believe that the one trustworthy partner in all of this is the United States.

And in fact, it is the United States. We are the only country that has some trust on both sides. It's deteriorated a lot among the Palestinians, but the fact is we are the only trustworthy negotiating partner they have. So it really comes down to the central question: What do we do, here in the United States? Do we continue to hear these stories of violence and tell them to get the violence down, and then we'll get to the Mitchell Peace Plan, or do we believe there's something more that we can do to help get the violence down, on our part, by getting each side to make a pledge, not to each other, but to us.

FRAZIER: Before we let you go, Bill, we would like to make use of your expertise on both of the big news stories we're following today, including the president's announcement on stem cell research, which you believe will be an absolutely defining moment for him.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it is a defining moment for President Bush, and an opportunity to set out the way he wants his presidency to be remembered. He has made a commitment. He made a commitment to a pro- life group earlier this year. He said, I oppose federal funding for stem cell research that involves destroying living human embryos. That was in a letter to the Culture of Life Foundation. So he could define himself as someone who remains true to his pledges and is s staunch conservative; he could, on the other hand, become the different kind of Republican that he was advertised, that he wanted to be during the campaign, by saying that he would allow certain kinds of stem cell research on human embryos, under specified conditions.

But he's going to have to pick one path or the other. He may try to have it both ways, but I think that's going to be very, very difficult in a decision like this.

FRAZIER: It will be a close one to watch, and we know you'll be observing, from where you are out on the coast. Bill Schneider, thanks very much for joining this afternoon.

SCHNEIDER: Sure, Stephen.



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