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USA Reacts to Israeli Killing of Hamas Founder


White House Reacts to Israeli Killing of Hamas Founder

White House Report, March 22: Hamas, Richard Clarke, Sudan, NATO, Italy

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters March 22 that the U.S. government did not receive prior warning from Israel about the recent Israeli attack that killed Hamas founder/leader Sheikh Ahmed Yasin.

"Hamas is a terrorist organization, and the Palestinian Authority needs to do everything it can to confront and dismantle terrorist organizations. That is the foundation for moving forward on the two state solution," the press secretary said.

When questioned by reporters on whether the administration condemned the attack, McClellan responded, "Both parties need to keep in mind the effects of their actions.

"What we believe is that all sides need to remain focused on measures to bring about an end to violence, terror, and help resume the progress towards peace," the White House spokesman said. He noted that the administration has been meeting with representatives from Israel and U.S. efforts remain "constantly engaged in the region."

The press secretary cautioned Israel and the Palestinian Authority, "All parties should exercise maximum restraint and do everything they can to get back to focusing on the two state vision that President Bush outlined.

"There is always the possibility of a better day in the Middle East, and we urge everyone to be calm in the region and get back to working on the two state vision," McClellan said.

Israel killed Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in a helicopter missile strike outside a Gaza City mosque March 22. Yassin founded Hamas in 1987. He was held in Israeli prisons for several years before being released in 1997. Israel blamed him for inspiring the Hamas bombers who have killed hundreds of Israelis.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION REFUTES CLAIMS BY FORMER COUNTER-TERRORISM AIDE

The White House dismissed claims made by former counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke that the administration gave short attention to al-Qaeda while instead preparing to move against Saddam Hussein.

"Richard Clarke's assertions are deeply irresponsible and they are wrong. His past comments and actions contradict his current rhetoric. When it comes to Iraq, he put out some disinformation March 21," McClellan said.

In an interview March 21, Clarke argued that the administration used the September 11 terrorist attacks as a pretext for war with Iraq.

The press secretary responded to Clarke's allegations saying, "This president made it very clear that the target for September 11 was Afghanistan and the Taliban. We took decisive action to deny al-Qaeda a safe harbor to plot terrorist attacks.

"This administration made al-Qaeda a top priority from the very beginning. The president wanted a comprehensive strategy to eliminate al-Qaeda because he understood this threat from the beginning," McClellan said.

The White House spokesman questioned Clarke's motives, saying "If Clarke had such great concerns about the direction of the war on terror, why did he wait so long to voice his concerns, why did he wait until the beginning of a presidential campaign to come out with a book and raise these great concerns he had.

"Instead, he conveniently writes a book in the heat of a presidential campaign. Clearly this is more about politics and book promotion than it is about policy," he said.

BUSH URGES PARTIES TO ACCEPT PEACE PLAN IN SUDAN

President Bush telephoned Sudan's President Umar al-Bashir and John Garang of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement March 22. "Now is the time for Sudan to show the world they can reconcile their differences, make peace, and improve the lives of the Sudanese people," the White House spokesman said.

"President Bush urged President Bashir to accept the United States proposal offered by his envoy John Danforth on the disputed area as the basis for working out remaining issues and completing a framework agreement in the coming days,"

The press secretary said the president offered reassurances that Sudan's relationship with the United States will change once a peace plan is completed and "the United States wants a new relationship with Sudan."

President Bush also thanked John Garang for accepting the United States proposal offered by his envoy on the disputed area.

"The president offered his assurances that the U.S. will remain engaged after a peace is reached to ensure implementation, including U.S. support for international monitors, and reconstruction of the south," McClellan said.

BUSH REAFFIRMS TO NATO U.S. COMMITMENT FOR PEACE IN KOSOVO

The president called NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and thanked him for his strong stand against terrorism following the Madrid bombings.

"The secretary general said that the need to stand up against terrorism is something where there is a strong consensus at NATO and reiterated his commitment to ensuring NATO does so", the press secretary said.

Bush also thanked Scheffer for reacting so quickly on Kosovo, and reiterated continuing U.S. commitment to peace in Kosovo.

"The secretary general also noted that most NATO allies with troops in Iraq have now committed to keeping them there until July 1 and that with the transfer of authority and a United Nations resolution, they are prepared to stay longer," McClellan said.

WHITE HOUSE APPLAUDS ITALY'S SUPPORT IN IRAQ AND KOSOVO

President Bush called Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to thank him for his strong statements against terrorism in the wake of the Madrid bombings. The president also thanked him for extending his troop commitment in Iraq and for sending additional forces to Kosovo.

"Berlusconi stressed his determination to fight terrorism and said he wanted the European Union Summit this week to issue a strong statement against terrorism," McClellan said.


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