LIMA, Peru – President Bush said Saturday that Yasser Arafat has not done enough to fight terrorism and Vice President Dick Cheney won't return to the Middle East to meet with the Palestinian leader until Arafat performs.
"There's been no question that the United States has stood strong with Israel and we've made it clear to Mr. Arafat that he is not doing all he can do to fight off terror," Bush said at a news conference in Lima, Peru, part of a four-day Latin American tour.
A meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security officials on Sunday could determine whether Cheney goes to Egypt this week for talks with Arafat. The meeting may also help American mediator Anthony Zinni decide whether Arafat has accepted U.S. conditions for a cease-fire and will work to implement them.
"If and when Chairman Arafat performs, that's what we have said," Bush said.
U.S. officials have said that a Cheney-Arafat meeting will depend on Arafat meeting several conditions, such as renouncing terrorism as a weapon and rounding up militants.
"The Palestinian Authority needs to think that terrorism is not a part of its arsenal in dealing with Israel," Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said Saturday. She said the president was receiving updates from Zinni.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is traveling with Bush, spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone Saturday, an administration official said. Powell also spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and European Union foreign and security chief Javier Solana, who have both been involved in Mideast peace efforts.
U.S. efforts to mediate the Mideast dispute could be complicated by revelations that Iran and the Palestinians forged a new anti-Israel alliance last year. The United States considers Iran a nation that sponsors terrorism. Bush, in his State of the Union address, described Iran as part of an "axis of evil," along with Iraq and North Korea, that could threaten the United States.
Israeli security officials told The Associated Press on Saturday that Arafat aides and Iranian officials met in Moscow in May 2001, to plan an arms shipment to Arafat's Palestinian Authority. The meeting was reported earlier Saturday by The New York Times on its Web site.
In January, Israeli commandos in the Red Sea seized a freighter loaded with Iranian-made weapons. Israel said it was bound for Arafat's organization; Palestinian officials have denied links to Iran.
On Capitol Hill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has organized a congressional drive to keep Cheney from meeting with Arafat.
Feinstein rounded up 51 senators to sign a letter to Bush. It said, "Until Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority demonstrate their commitment to end the violence, we would urge that the vice president reconsider his offer to meet with Mr. Arafat."
The senators also told Bush they believed Israel's government had the right to take "necessary and appropriate measures" to ensure Israelis' security.
In a third suicide bombing in three days, a Palestinian man, intercepted by border guards Friday, blew himself up at a military checkpoint on the West Bank. On Saturday, Israeli troops killed two Palestinians who attacked an army post with grenades.