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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Talk with Ariel Sharon Spokesman

Aired May 19, 2003 - 11:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to get some more information now. We actually have with us live, Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, joining us now from Jerusalem.
Mr. Gissin, hello.

What can you tell us about this latest incident in Afula?

RAANAN GISSIN, ARIEL SHARON SPOKESMAN: Well, there's no doubt that we are in a tidal wave of terrorist homicide, suicide bombings launched against us. But I think more than the attacks, because we have suffered this for the past 32 months, I think this is a clear declaration of war by the Islamic radical groups, and I think also by Yasser Arafat, on the newly formed government of Abu Mazen, and on the peace process. These organizations have decided to kill both, both the newly formed government, as well as any hope the Palestinian people have on peace. And the latest incident in Afula is an indication of this trend.

KAGAN: Has anybody claimed responsibility for this latest incident?

GISSIN: Well, I don't think that immediately. By the way, in the past few weeks, they didn't claim immediate responsibility, but there's no doubt the fingerprints are Hamas fingerprints. And as your reporter said, in the past 36 hours, not 48, 36 hours, we had five terrorist suicide/homicide bombings, all instigated by Hamas. And believe me, Hamas today is not alone. It is fully supported by outside forces. It is supported by Iran. It is supported by Hezbollah, and inspired by the policy of Mr. Arafat.

KAGAN: Let's get back to the status of the talks. At least after one of the suicide bombings, on of these latest bombings, the talks still took place. Mr. Sharon did sit down with Mr. Abbas. And then, it appears not a lot came out of the first rounds of talks. In this current environment, can the two still sit down and try to make some progress on peace?

GISSIN: Well, prior to this attack, there was a faction in the Knesset today in the Israeli parliament, and Prime Minister Sharon iterated again that he stubbornly continues to put major efforts in order to try and get the process moving forward. And he said to his members of the coalition, not to despair because he clearly intends to put a major effort in order to try to move this process ahead.

But it takes two to tango, and Abu Mazen is expected to take some real steps, and perhaps a very hard decision after this spate of terrorist attacks, but steps that he must take to dismantle the terrorist organization and to disarm those groups. It can't have a two-headed government, one run by Yasser Arafat at night conducting terrorist attacks, and one during the day that speaks peace with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

We are not giving up on hope. There's no doubt we will have to take those measures. We will have to take those very harsh measures in order to defend and protect our citizens.

KAGAN: When you say take harsh measures, are you talking about ratcheting up even more, and retaliatory measures are on the Palestinians?

GISSIN: Well, first of all it's not retaliatory measures; it's . self-defensive measures, in order to prevent the continuous killing of innocent men, women and children. And we had nine dead. And now we have four and still counting in less than 36 hours. That's not the way to start on the road map to peace.

First and foremost, I think this indicates that the sequence of events that must follow, if we are to pursue President Bush's vision, is first and foremost a relentless fight against terrorism by all parties concerned, us as well as the Palestinians. There's no other solution. It's a hard choice, but it's a choice that must be made if there is to be some hope for peace and for security for both people.

KAGAN: And just real quickly, the status of Mr. Sharon's trip here to Washington D.C.?

GISSIN: Well, I think the trip will be rescheduled, there's no doubt, amidst this wave of terror. I think President Bush and the U.S. administration understand quite clearly that that at such a moment of crisis, the place of the leader of any nation that has to stand against this kind of terrorist activity is with his people. And based on this understanding, I think they will find the proper time to conduct this very important trip to Washington.

KAGAN: Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Ariel Sharon, thank you so much.

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