NEW YORK – Secretary of State Colin Powell says the CIA is working on a new plan to protect Israel from terror attacks.
Even while shunning Yasser Arafat — an approach opposed by Russian, European and U.N. officials who met Tuesday with Powell — the secretary said the United States was discussing the security plan with Palestinian officials.
"I think we have a pretty good plan," Powell said without divulging any details at a news conference following the meeting.
Past plans, and trips to the region by CIA Director George Tenet, have failed to stop Palestinian terrorists from killing Israelis.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, who joined Powell at the home of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said the terror attacks Tuesday on Israelis on the West Bank should convince Israel that even controlling Palestinian areas won't stop the violence.
Maher's prescription is for Israel to give up the West Bank and Gaza to a new Palestinian state.
Both Maher and Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher pledged their governments' support to new security measures.
President Bush said Tuesday's attack against Israeli settlers "underscores the importance of focusing on peace and working with leaders in the Palestinian Authority who are dedicated to peace," according to his spokesman.
Bush has ruled out helping to set up a Palestinian state until terror is controlled, which may give the Arabs an incentive for supporting new security measures.
European Union diplomat Javier Solana said U.S. officials would go to the region within two weeks to take up the plan with Israel and the Palestinians. He said Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia would participate.
Maher, Muasher and the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al-Faisal, are to visit Bush at the White House on Thursday.
A senior U.S. official told reporters, on condition of anonymity, that Palestinians would be trained in security measures. He said the Unites States might be part of a security force, but probably in civilian roles.
Powell on Tuesday split sharply with Annan and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Arafat's leadership role. They insisted he legitimately heads the Palestinians' statehood movement.
In a two-hour meeting that made some headway on Palestinian reform and assistance, they told Powell they supported Arafat and they demanded swift progress toward setting up a Palestinian state.
Powell stood firm on Bush's insistence that ending violence must take precedence over other goals, including Palestinian statehood.
"Everything really begins with creating a better sense of security," he said after the meeting.
The new bloodshed Tuesday was cited by Powell as another example that Arafat's leadership was not helping create a state.
Annan disagreed with the U.S. approach to Arafat. "We all have our respective positions" on Arafat, he said. "The U.N. still recognizes Chairman Arafat and we will continue to deal with him."
Annan also said there must be progress on fronts other than security. He singled out establishing a Palestinian state and ending Israel's presence on the West Bank and Gaza. He said the fresh attack was further evidence Israel must end its occupation of those areas.