Powell welcomes promises from Arafat, says U.S. will help

Thursday, May 16, 2002

GANDER, Newfoundland -- Secretary of State Colin Powell welcomed a promise by Yasser Arafat to reform the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday and said the United States was ready to help.

Powell said he was encouraged that Arafat, in outlining reform plans in a speech to the Palestinian parliament, used the same terms the Bush administration has been using to push for restructuring.

"We can help, we can encourage, we can press them, we can contribute to it. But it's something that has to come from within if it's going to be real and it's going to stick," Powell said.

Powell spoke to reporters while en route to Washington after attending a two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting in Iceland.

Powell stressed that the administration is seeking a greater diplomatic involvement by Arab states in the Mideast crisis, a World Bank role in reconstruction of the Palestinian territories and a meeting of foreign ministers of interested governments this summer.

"There are a lot of little pieces in play," he said. "I hope we can keep building toward the ministerial meeting."

"The president will wait to see whether or not Yasser Arafat and others in the Palestinian Authority actually take actions that lead to a better life for the Palestinian people," said Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman.

Bush has said the Palestinian leader must overhaul his government for the Middle East peace process to move forward.

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