Halt terror,Albright tells Arafat Secretary of state backs Israeli position to defeat militants She visits bomb victims Israel urged to honor commitments made '94 Oslo peace accords

September 11, 1997|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY. — JERUSALEM -- On a mission to salvage the Middle East peace process, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright came down heavily on the Palestinians yesterday, saying they must pursue a relentless fight against terrorism.

She also called on Israel to fulfill its commitments under the peace accords negotiated in Oslo four years ago this week.

But the thrust of her first day spent with Israeli officials was to call on Yasser Arafat's Palestinian authority to crack down on Muslim militants such as those responsible for last week's triple suicide bombing that killed eight people and injured nearly 200 in Jerusalem.

Standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Albright said she would reiterate her message to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat when she meets him today in Ramallah in the West Bank.

"It is essential that Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation be serious, sustained and effective," she told a news conference after meeting Netanyahu.

"At the same time, the Palestinian authority must take unilateral steps and actions to root out the terrorist infrastructure. If we are to create and sustain an invigorated and accelerated negotiating process, there is simply no other way."

For its part, Israel must live up to its commitments in the peace process, the secretary said. That would include withdrawing Israeli troops from additional West Bank land and ceding that territory to the control of the Palestinians.

In a veiled reference to Netanyahu's controversial settlement policy, Albright said Israel "should refrain from actions that undermine confidence and trust."

But, she reiterated, "There is no moral equivalence between killing people and building houses."

During her first day in Israel, Albright visited a hospital where victims of last week's bombing are being treated.

Daniel Miller, a 19-year-old Jewish seminary student from Miami, gave her a letter urging her to be tough on Arafat and force him to go after Islamic militants. He told Albright to remember the bombing victims "when you go to embrace Arafat."

Albright, apparently somewhat irritated, said curtly: "I don't intend to embrace Arafat."

Palestinians reacted angrily to Albright's pressure. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Cabinet minister, said the attitude reflected a "wholly one-sided mission."

But Marwan Kanafani, a spokesman for Arafat, said there were some "positive elements" in Albright's comments: "She said Israel was responsible for creating the atmosphere for resuming the peace talks."

The peace process collapsed in March when Israel broke ground for a Jewish housing development in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem. The Palestinians have demanded that Israel stop expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, land that they hope one day will be an independent Palestinian state.

Albright's visit comes at the lowest ebb in relations between Israel and the Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993. The crisis has been fueled by the hard-line policies of Netanyahu, an outspoken opponent of the accords before he became prime minister in May 1996.

The resumption of suicide bombings by Islamic fundamentalists opposed to peace with Israel has stiffened his resistance. Since March, three suicide bombings have killed 23 people.

Albright got a taste of the divisions among Israelis themselves over the peace process when she visited Israel's President Ezer Weizman and he urged her to take a tough stance with both sides.

Israeli television and U.S. officials reported that Weizman urged Albright to "bash together the heads" of both Netanyahu and Arafat to get the peace process moving again. Weizman, whose office is largely symbolic, frequently has criticized the Netanyahu government.

Albright met for about 45 minutes with Netanyahu and Israel's foreign and defense ministers. During that meeting, she concurred with Netanyahu on his insistence that Arafat crack down on terrorists.

Both were not satisfied with Arafat's efforts, including the arrest of about 150 Islamic activists earlier this week.

But Albright did suggest that Arafat might be more successful if Israel's sanctions in the wake of the recent bombings were lifted, a senior American official said.

The secretary of state referred specifically to the travel ban on Palestinians, which prohibits them from working in Israel, and Israel's refusal to release millions of dollars in taxes and fees owed to the Palestinians, the American official said.

Albright also took time to visit a site of intimate signifcance.

Most foreign dignitaries make a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust. But there was personal significance for the Czech-born, Roman Catholic-raised diplomat who learned seven months ago of her Jewish ancestry and discovered that three of her grandparents died in concentration camps.

Albright, who last week visited the hometown of her parents in an attempt to trace her Jewish roots, received about 60 pages in documents from memorial officials. The packet included transportation rosters that bear the names of some of her relatives who were shipped to death camps.

At the end of her tour, Albright walked through the exhibit dedicated to the more than a million children who died in the Holocaust.

In a voice choked with emotion, she said, "We must never allow ourselves to be at peace with the Holocaust or to believe we have somehow mastered its lessons. We must never allow ourselves to forget."

In the Yad Vashem guest book, Albright wrote: "As your guest in a sacred place, moved by love, sorrow, remembrance and resolve, I pray for an end to intolerance, the nurturing of knowledge and a coming together in peace."

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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