Palestinians say they aren't against peace

Saturday, August 10, 2002

JERUSALEM -- On the eve of the Palestinian security minister's talks with the CIA director, a Palestinian official said Friday his side was "exerting every possible effort" to achieve peace.

Violence continued with Israeli troops killing a 40-year-old Palestinian man and arresting another they accuse of planning bomb attacks.

Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman, speaking to The Associated Press on Friday, rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's charges that the Palestinians were not ready to make peace.

Sharon, in a televised speech delivered Thursday to a graduating class at Israel's Defense College, branded the leaders of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority a "terror gang" that would have to be removed before fighting can end.

Abdel Rahman said Sharon "wanted to warn the Americans against reaching any agreement with the Palestinian delegation by describing Palestinian Authority officials as people (who are) against peace."

Nabil Abu Rdeineh, an Arafat adviser, also accused Sharon of trying to sabotage the peace process and urged the international community to continue efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

A Palestinian delegation headed by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, met with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on Thursday.

Saturday, Arafat's new interior minister, Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, was to meet CIA Director George J. Tenet in Washington to discuss how to improve the Palestinian security arm.

U.S. officials confirmed Friday that a CIA team met secretly with Palestinian officials and formulated a detailed plan for security reforms. The plan was submitted to the Bush administration last week and recommended profound changes in the operations of the Palestinian security services, the officials said. The team did not meet with Arafat.

Talks 'constructive'

Arafat, in an interview on the pan-Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera Friday, described the recent Palestinian-American talks as "constructive" and said he expected "positive results" on the political, economic and security fronts.

He added that it was agreed that a team of American, Egyptian and Jordanian security experts will train the Palestinian security force.

Meanwhile, Israel's military appeared to be stepping up preparations to defend the country against a possible missile strike from Iraq should the United States launch a military operation against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

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