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Posted: 3/30/2002 10:54:28 AM EDT
CRAWFORD, Texas- President Bush said Saturday that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "can do a lot more" to prevent attacks against Israelis and that the United States supports Israel's right to defend itself. "I believe he can do a lot more to prevent attack," Bush said in his first comments since Israeli troops laid siege Friday to Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank on Friday after 30 Israelis were killed in a week. "I am deeply concerned about the loss of innocent life. ... I fully understand Israel's need to defend herself," the president said at his Texas ranch where he had kept a silence while monitoring Friday's developments. Bush also said U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni will remain in the region to continue his efforts at arranging a cease-fire. In addition to harsh words for Arafat, Bush insisted Israel must work to reduce the violence. He urged Israel to "make sure there is a path to peace as she secures her homeland." "There's got to be a peaceful solution," Bush said. Just before Bush began speaking, there was fresh violence in Israeli. An explosion went off Saturday evening in a cafe in Tel Aviv's crowded entertainment district, and paramedics said there were dozens of casualties. Bush stepped up his Mideast diplomacy Saturday with calls to five world leaders. But the president announced no new action by his administration to end the bloodshed, such as sending Vice President Dick Cheney back to the region. He urged all Middle East leaders to strongly condemn the attacks against Israelis, but singled out Arafat. "He has got to speak up," Bush said. "He need needs to stand up and condemn ... these attacks." Asked if he thought the administration could do more to help end the cycle of violence, Bush said U.S. officials are spending "a great deal of time" on the matter and he is committed to ending terrorism in the Middle East and around the world. Bush made calls from the ranch to King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who has offered a leading peace initiative. The president did not speak with Arafat or Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
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