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Terrorists Trying to Destroy Mideast Peace Process

Terrorists Trying to Destroy Mideast Peace Process, U.S. Says

(Issue not Israel or Palestinian Authority, but terrorist organizations)

By Wendy S. Ross Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- The White House and State Department said June 12 that the Islamic militant group Hamas and other like-minded groups opposed to an Israeli state are trying to stop the U.S.-led Middle East peace process.

"[M]ake no mistake, what is happening here are that the enemies of Israel, the enemies of the Palestinian Authority, the enemies of Prime Minister [Mahmoud] Abbas, the enemies of peace are trying to stop a hopeful process from moving forward," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.

"The issue is not Israel. The issue is not the Palestinian Authority. The issue are terrorists who are killing in an attempt to stop a hopeful process from moving forward. They are killing because they are terrorists."

"The issue is Hamas. The terrorists are Hamas. Hamas is no friend to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is a threat to everything that Prime Minister Abbas and those people in the Palestinian Authority who seek to create a state stand for," Fleischer said.

He said that President Bush is "personally involved" in efforts to stop the violence, and had directed Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Council officials to make a series of phone calls to leaders in the area.

"But, it's not as if a phone call will get Hamas to stop being terrorists. What's important is for everybody in the region to work together to defeat Hamas and violent terrorist organizations," Fleischer said.

In the last few days, a suicide bus bombing in Israel, claimed by Hamas as its work, and three air strikes by Israel on Hamas targets in Gaza have killed more than 30 Israelis and Palestinians and wounded more than 130 others.

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher announced June 12 that Secretary Powell will be in Jordan June 22 to attend the World Economic Forum, along with leaders of Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- all cosponsors with the United States of the "roadmap" for peace in the Middle East.

The so-called "Quartet" principals "will review the results of the Red Sea summit meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba and how best to assist Israeli and Palestinian efforts to end terror and violence and make progress towards President Bush's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Boucher told reporters.

He said that Powell had been on the phone to discuss the Middle East with a number of foreign leaders in the last two days.

"So far today the secretary's had phone calls with Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom, Jordanian Foreign Minister Muasher, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faysal, Egyptian Foreign Minister Maher. I'd point out that yesterday ... he talked to Foreign Secretary Straw, a number of Europeans -- Italian Foreign Minister Frattini, German Foreign Minister Fischer. And the Middle East was key topic in all those discussions as it was today in his conversation this morning with Swedish Foreign Minister Lindh."

The subject of the secretary's phone calls, Boucher said, is "how to stop the terrorism; to remind people of all the commitments that were made on the Red Sea last week, particularly in his conversations with the Arab states, to talk to them about the things that they were going to do, that they can do, to help the Palestinians build a capability to stop the terrorist groups from getting money from whatever sources."

The funding to "Hamas, the people in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Brigade, all these organizations, they need to find their funding cut off, their support cut off and their ability to operate cut off. And we think that everybody in the region, not just Israelis and Palestinians, but everybody in the region should be focused on doing that right now."

Regarding Israeli actions against the terrorists, Boucher said "Israel has a need to defend itself but it should do that in a way that furthers the long-term goal of peace. That's what the president said the other day. We haven't changed that view."

Asked how Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas can fight the terrorists, White House Press Secretary Fleischer responded that "the ability of the Palestinian Authority to take action against terror will be enhanced as the Arab nations work with the Palestinian Authority, and as Israel works with the Palestinian Authority."

"There is a widespread recognition that the Arab nations want to dry up the funding for the terrorists groups, and do everything they can to bolster the Palestinian Authority in a variety of ways -- economic, security, political, diplomatic," Fleischer said.

Fleischer said "the history in the region is clear that whenever there are the brightest moments of hope, the terrorist work hardest to strike. What's important is that the terrorists be stopped so that progress toward peace can be resumed."

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