White House opens campaign for new Palestinian leadership

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration turned to the Arab world Tuesday for support in its campaign to oust Yasser Arafat and push the Palestinian Authority toward democratic reform and statehood within three years. Bush's spokesman said Israel's future could depend on it.

Bush also planned to take up the issue with European, Russian and Canadian leaders attending an economic summit with him in Canada.

Meanwhile, American diplomats opened talks with Arab governments to promote the president's program, and Secretary of State Colin Powell mounted a high-profile campaign.

In an interview with the U.S.-financed Middle East Radio Network, Powell said ending terror was the most important goal of the Bush administration.

But he said he hoped Arab listeners would "take note of the requirements we will have as we move forward" to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, end Jewish settlement activity, return collected revenues to the Palestinian government and make life better for the Palestinian people.

He said Israel as well as the Palestinians should speak out against terror and violence and resume talks aimed at improving security. He cautioned, however: "This doesn't mean total quiet. I'm not sure that ever will be achieved."

Bush made demands on Israel as well as the Palestinians, including an easing of curbs on Palestinian workers and a halt to building homes for Jews on the West Bank and in Gaza. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, followed up with Israeli officials on several levels.

"The reaction from governments is positive," Boucher said, "because the president did lay out a path to a Palestinian state, a path toward two states living side by side in security."

In the radio interview, Powell said the Bush administration will remain in touch with Palestinian leaders and were in contact with several before Bush spoke Monday at the White House. He did not identify who the Palestinians were.

The White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said the president was very worried about Israel's future unless a Palestinian state is created.

"The president has planted the seeds for peace and now it's up to the parties to nurture those seeds and grow them," Fleischer said.

"The president believes his speech represents the best hope for the Palestinian people and he believes his speech represents the best long-term hopes of Israel because he is very worried about the future viability of Israel unless a Palestinian state is created," Fleischer said.

The speech on Monday, however, demanded far more of the Palestinians than of Israel, including the ouster of Arafat, although the Palestinian leader praised the speech and said he did not think Bush was referring to him.