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U.S.Terrorist Attacks Must Not Stop Peace Process

U.S. Says Latest Mideast Terrorist Attacks Must Not Stop Peace Process

(Secretary Powell, NSC's Rice appear on Sunday talk shows)

By Thomas Eichler Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Bush administration officials deplored a June 8 terrorist attack that killed four Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip, but said the attack should not be allowed to stop the Middle East peace process.

"I grieve along with the Israeli people for the loss of these four soldiers," Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters in Washington hours after the attack. "But we've got to keep moving. We cannot allow this to derail our efforts."

Powell said both the Israelis and the Palestinians "made important commitments at the Aqaba summit, and we must not allow terrorist organizations such as Hamas and PIJ and the al-Aqsa Brigade and similar organizations to derail this."

Powell said the international community must speak out, and the Palestinian Authority must act. "Israel will do what is necessary to defend itself," he said. "But we have to move forward. It would be a tragedy, with this new momentum in the peace process, if we allowed terrorists to derail it and stop it."

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Powell said "we have made our choice. We are going to be supporting [Palestinian] Prime Minister Abbas. We are going to do everything we can to help him and his cabinet develop the capability to deal with terrorism in Gaza and in the West Bank."

Powell said "we have to move in this direction and we are hoping that Israel will also do everything they can to help Prime Minister Abbas by taking some of the steps that Prime Minister Sharon announced the other day in order to make it easier for Prime Minister Abbas to take the difficult steps he has to take."

Appearing on CNN's Late Edition, Powell said Abbas "has to build up his capacity and his capability to deal with these kinds of organizations. But based on the conversations we had with him over the past week, and the past several weeks, for that matter, I know that he is committed to doing that, taking these organizations down."

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, said Abbas "understands and made very clear to everyone at the summit [June 4 in Aqaba] that he understands that the future of the Palestinian people rests in a two-state solution in which Israel and Palestine live in peace and security side by side. We believe he is committed to that. We never expected that the rejectionists would find this a welcome development. But it is now time for all of those who stand for peace and who say that they stand for peace to reject the rejectionists."

Rice said all parties understand that the way forward to peace will be difficult. "The Israelis understand that, the United States understands that, the Arabs understand that. But this is the best chance the Palestinian people have had for statehood and for an enduring peace for a very long time. Everyone needs to be supportive of what Prime Minister Abbas is trying to do. It was really a quite remarkable statement that the armed intifada needs to end. It was a remarkable statement that he accepts that a two-state solution also has to have a place for Israel. He is a remarkable man, he has put together a remarkable government, and he deserves the support of the entire international community. That is really what Sharm el-Sheik and Aqaba were about, is ensuring that support. And we believe that he will get that support and he will succeed."

On ABC's This Week, Rice was asked about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's commitment to dismantle "unauthorized outposts." Rice said Sharon "has said that he would begin that immediately and we expect it to begin immediately. He made very important statements both leading up to Aqaba and at Aqaba that he understood that he had to reassure the Palestinians that he believed in a contiguous, viable Palestinian state. And the dismantling of the ... illegal outposts is one of the first steps that can do that."

Asked about charges that the Bush administration may have pressured U.S. intelligence agencies to produce information on weapons of mass destruction that would justify an invasion of Iraq, both Powell and Rice strongly defended the administration's claims.

Rice pointed out that U.S. officials have been reporting Iraqi weapons developments for many years, going back into the Clinton administration, and these claims have been supported by intelligence from other nations and from United Nations weapons inspections.

Rice said on ABC that "[t]here's a bit of revisionist history going on here, because of course, going all the way back to 1991 and the Gulf War when Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; going back prior to that when they used weapons of mass destruction; going to 1994 and 1995 when a high-level defector left and the Iraqis were spooked into admitting to a biological weapons program; going back to 1996 when the then director of Central Intelligence, John Deutsch, talked about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that were there; going back to 1998 when President Clinton, after the inspectors had left the country in December of 1998, sat in the Oval Office and said that he was going to launch an attack against the Iraqis because, heaven forbid, that the Iraqis would use their weapons of mass destruction. It goes on and on."

Rice said "there were multiple sources that talked about, as we got ready for the run-up to war, Iraqi preparations to actually use chemical weapons, leading the president to deliver a very strong measure of deterrence to those who might in fact try and use them."

Powell told CNN that "Iraq had chemical weapons. They used chemical weapons. They had biological weapons. They admitted it. We have no doubt whatsoever that over the last several years they have retained such weapons, they have retained the capability to start up production of such weapons."

Powell said the intelligence community has reviewed the evidence about vans recently discovered in Iraq and "reaffirmed yesterday to me again, through [CIA] Director Tenet, that they are confident of their judgment" that the vans were designed to produce biological weapons materials.

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