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A Man of Peace!!!!!!!
by Seyed Javad
12 April 2002 21:35 UTC
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             White House Calls Sharon 'Man of Peace'
             Last Updated: April 11, 2002 07:10 PM ET

             By Randall Mikkelsen

             WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday called Ariel 
Sharon a "man of peace," rejecting a report that U.S. support for the 
Israeli prime minister was eroding after he rebuffed Washington's demands to 
completely withdraw Israeli military forces from Palestinian areas.

             "The president has, does and will continue to work directly 
with Ariel Sharon to achieve peace in the region," White House spokesman Ari 
Fleischer told reporters. "The president believes that Ariel Sharon is a man 
of peace."

             Fleischer made the statement after the Washington Post reported 
that Sharon's backing in the White House was ebbing as a result of his 
defiance of President Bush's call for an Israeli withdrawal from the West 
Bank. Sharon said on Wednesday the United States and other nations should 
not pressure Israel to halt its offensive and vowed to continue the military 
sweep, launched in retaliation for a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings.

             Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the 
White House on Thursday with Vice President Dick Cheney and national 
security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a day after blasting U.S. calls for a 
withdrawal. Netanyahu, who is in the United States to defend Israel's 
two-week-old military offensive, requested the session, which lasted about 
40 minutes, and did not meet with Bush.

             According to an Israeli source traveling with Netanyahu, the 
former prime minister repeated his message that Palestinian leader Yasser 
Arafat should be expelled, quoting Netanyahu as calling Arafat "a chronic 
agreement breaker."

             Netanyahu also accused Arafat of working in coordination with 
Iran, which backs Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrillas who have stepped up attacks 
on Israeli positions. Netanyahu said Arafat was also working with Iraq, and 
told Cheney and Rice that postponing an attack on Baghdad was actually 
encouraging the violence. The source said while Netanyahu was presenting his 
own views, he spoke with Sharon before and after the meeting.


             The Post reported that some in the White House had begun making 
a distinction between support for Israel and support for Sharon. It quoted 
an unnamed official as questioning Sharon's long-term ability to make peace.

             Sharon was defense minister during the 1982 Israeli invasion of 
Lebanon, in which Israeli forces killed thousands of Lebanese and 
Palestinian civilians. An Israeli inquiry found Sharon indirectly 
responsible for the massacre by Lebanese militiamen of hundreds of 
Palestinian civilians.

             Bush has been visibly frustrated by Sharon's defiance of his 
calls for an Israeli withdrawal and Arafat's failure to curb suicide 
bombings. The president made the demands in a speech one week ago, reversing 
his policy of relative disengagement from the Middle East and announcing he 
was sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region.

             Without specifically mentioning the Middle East, Bush on 
Thursday expressed optimism over U.S. peacemaking efforts. "I believe that 
if we're patient and resolved and united, that out of this evil will come 
lasting peace -- peace in regions of the world that might appear now that 
cannot be peaceful," he said.

             Earlier criticism of Bush's disengagement has turned into new 
criticism that his attempts to end the violence have been ineffective.

             Powell arrived in Jerusalem on Thursday night after telling 
reporters he expected to discuss a schedule for Israeli withdrawal with 
Sharon in a meeting on Friday.

             Fleischer noted that Israeli troops had pulled out of some 
smaller Palestinian villages, saying, "Israel has continued the withdrawal 
... that the president called for in some areas. There are additional 
incursions in other areas."

             Leaders in the U.S. Congress expressed support for Israel and 
Sharon after meeting with Bush on Thursday. They said it was important that 
U.S. policymakers maintain a united front while Powell was in the Middle 
East seeking an elusive cease-fire.

             "I don't think there has been any diminution of support," said 
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle when asked whether support for Sharon was 
eroding in Congress or the White House.

             Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said, "This 
is a delicate time ... We should not be expressing a lack of confidence in 
any of the players right now."

             U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Richard 
Gephardt of Missouri said, "We will stand with Israel."

             While the White House and congressional leaders publicly 
supported Israel and Sharon in response to the Post article, the 
administration wanted moves in Congress to pass pro-Israel measures delayed.

             Rep. Tom Lantos of California, ranking Democrat on the House 
International Relations Committee, was pushing for a vote on a resolution 
expressing support for Israel, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein, a California 
Democrat, and Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, had readied a bill to 
designate the Palestine Liberation Organization a terrorist group.

             "We've got to be very concerned about sending messages that are 
counterproductive as we attempt to try to find some peaceful resolution 
here," Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, told reporters.

             Fleischer said Bush spoke by telephone on Thursday with King 
Hamad of Bahrain and the two expressed "mutual concern" about Middle East 
tensions. He said Hamad had expressed support for Bush's latest peace 

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