Anti-terrorist campaign widens to Mideast groups

U.S. seeks crackdown on Hezbollah, Hamas

War On Terrorism

The World

November 09, 2001|By THE BOSTON GLOBE

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration took public steps yesterday to broaden its campaign on terrorism beyond Osama bin Laden's network, demanding more action from the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon and Syria to crack down on groups that it added last week to a list of terrorist organizations.

The warnings marked a risky new stage in the U.S. campaign, which has so far focused on the war against bin Laden and the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan. It also pointed to the difficulty of demanding action against groups such as Hezbollah that many in the Arab and Muslim worlds do not consider terrorist.

This week, Lebanon and Syria rebuffed U.S. requests to take action against Hezbollah and some Palestinian groups based in Damascus, drawing warnings from State Department officials.

The Bush administration, meanwhile, declined to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the United Nations this weekend, saying he had not done enough to crack down on the militant group Hamas.

"You cannot help us with al-Qaida and hug Hezbollah - that's not acceptable - or Hamas," national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday. "The president continues to make that clear to Mr. Arafat, and there are no plans to meet with Mr. Arafat in New York."

U.S. officials insist the month-old military campaign against bin Laden and the Taliban is their priority. But officials said the government was in a position to act against Middle East governments whose efforts it deems lacking.

That response could range from cutting Lebanon's $35 million in U.S. aid to adding it to the State Department's list of countries that support terrorism.

Relations, meanwhile, could be downgraded with Syria, which is the only one of seven countries on the list of states backing terrorism to enjoy full U.S. diplomatic representation.

Rice made clear that the Bush administration believed Arafat was doing too little "to root out terrorists" from the ranks of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Islamic militant group.

"These are responsibilities that we have asked Chairman Arafat to take and to take seriously. We still don't think there has been enough in that regard," she said.

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