RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told Palestinians in a televised address Wednesday he has ordered security services to prevent "terror attacks against Israeli civilians."
The address came after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 15 Israelis at a pool hall in a Tel Aviv suburb.
The United States has repeatedly demanded Arafat unequivocally condemn terrorism in Arabic to his people, a demand his television address appeared to fulfill.
"I gave my orders and directions to all the Palestinian security forces to confront and prevent all terror attacks against Israeli civilians from any Palestinian side or parties and at the same time to confront any aggression or attack on Palestinian civilians, whether by Israeli soldiers or settlers, which we all condemn," Arafat said.
However, Arafat said, his police were too weak to carry out his orders in the wake of Israel's large-scale military operation aimed at crushing Palestinian militias in the West Bank.
Arafat also expressed his "full commitment and my readiness to participate with the U.S. administration and the international community in their war against terrorism."
The speech was based almost entirely on a statement issued in Arafat's name earlier in the day.
The bombing in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion came while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with President Bush in Washington.
Sharon cut short his visit to Washington to head home to discuss potential responses. Education Minister Limor Livnat, who traveled with Sharon, said "it is very possible that in the end, there will be no choice and it will be necessary to expel Arafat," but that Sharon has not yet made a decision.
A senior Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Sharon and Bush agreed that Arafat, if not removed, should be elevated to a purely symbolic position, leaving another leader in charge of running the Palestinian Authority.
In his address Wednesday, which appeared aimed at forestalling new Israeli reprisals, Arafat also asked for help rebuilding his security forces so they could carry out his orders to fight terror.
"I call on the U.S. government, President Bush and the international community to provide the support and needed immunity for the Palestinian security forces, whose infrastructure has been destroyed by the Israeli occupation, so that it can carry out and implement their orders and their missions and duties to completely stop any terror attempt targeting Israeli civilians or Palestinian civilians," he said.
Arafat also asked that an international force be immediately sent to the region to establish peace.