Wednesday, June 26, 2002
A dim bulb: Yasser Arafat says that President Bush wasn't talking about him when the president called for new Palestinian leadership earlier this week.
WASHINGTON – President Bush decided to call for Yasser Arafat's removal after receiving intelligence information last week showing that the Palestinian leader had authorized a $20,000 payment to a group that claimed responsibility for the most recent suicide attack in Jerusalem, senior administration officials said yesterday.
As a result of the last-minute decision, the officials said, the aggressive diplomacy that had originally been expected to follow the president's speech – including an immediate trip to the region by Secretary of State Colin Powell and a Middle East peace conference – will be delayed. Instead, officials acknowledged yesterday that they would need a new round of consultations before deciding on their next steps.
Although Arab leaders said Bush's call for Arafat's removal had caught them by surprise, most chose to ignore that emphasis in the speech. Instead, they offered constructive and cautiously supportive public comments.
Arafat said Bush certainly wasn't referring to him.
Speaking to reporters at his Ramallah headquarters, Arafat said it was incorrect to conclude Bush's speech was critical of him, saying Bush had spoken about a Palestinian state and elections. Palestinians proudly carried out democratic elections in 1996, he said, repeating "democratic" three times for emphasis.
Yeah, democratic like those in the former Soviet Union and Cuba. That may sell in Europe -- but Americans don't buy it.