WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday he had no current plans to meet with Yasser Arafat because the Palestinian leader had yet to meet U.S. conditions for curbing Middle East violence.
Cheney spoke before Sunday night talks in Israel that were arranged by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni with the Israelis and Palestinians. The two sides have endorsed a U.S. cease-fire plan in principle but remain divided on several key issues.
The outcome of that meeting could determine whether the vice president goes to Egypt this week for talks with Arafat.
Asked if he would meet Arafat, Cheney said, ``I imagine I will at some point, but there's nothing currently scheduled.''
He added: ``So far, the conditions on the ground have not warranted my going to a meeting.''
Cheney framed a possible meeting as ``just one more piece, if you will, of the whole proposition'' toward peacemaking. ``I wouldn't overdo it in the sense that somehow everybody's focused in on this is the be-all and end-all of the process. It's not. It's a part of the process,'' he said on CNN's ``Late Edition.''
U.S. officials have said that a Cheney-Arafat meeting would depend on Arafat meeting several conditions, such as renouncing terrorism as a weapon and rounding up militants.
Cheney said if Arafat would ``put out the kind of effort that we haven't seen up until now ... then I'd be prepared to meet with him. But to date they have not gotten to that point yet.''
The administration is ``confident he is capable of doing much more than he has, but up to now he has not expended the level of effort we think is warranted,'' Cheney said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''
President Bush said Saturday during a visit to Peru that the administration has ``made it clear to Mr. Arafat that he is not doing all he can do to fight off terror.''
Cheney said he had spoken with Zinni as late as Saturday night and kept in daily touch with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Cheney said Arafat must show that he is working to put into place provisions of a proposal by CIA Director George Tenet that calls for Palestinians to rein in militants and collect their weapons, as well as intelligence-sharing with Israeli security officials.
``If, in fact, Arafat will do what he's in the past said he will do, if he actually deliver on the Tenet plan, if he'll move to prevent on the violence and do what's required of Tenet ... if in fact those steps are actually implemented, then at that point I'll be prepared to meet with Mr. Arafat,'' Cheney said. ``To date, that hasn't happened and therefore there's no meeting currently scheduled.''
The violence continued Sunday. Israeli troops shot and killed four suspected militants after they fired at Jordanian border guards and then slipped into Israel across the usually quiet frontier, officials in both countries said.
An Israeli woman was fatally shot while traveling on a West Bank road, and Israeli troops killed a Palestinian policeman in a gunbattle nearby.
Zinni faces pressure to reach a deal before the Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon, which will focus heavily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Arafat wants to attend, but Israel has not given him permission to go and may keep him grounded if there is no truce deal.