Powell Meets Arab Ministers on Security Arrangements

Egypt offered Thursday to train Palestinian police as Israel withdrew its forces from the West Bank.

But Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said the offer to improve security was conditioned on Israel pulling out.

"It is impossible to do this under occupation," Maher said.

The training would be done city-by-city, as Israeli troops departed, he told reporters before meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Otherwise, Maher said at a news conference, Israel would continue to disarm and arrest Palestinian police.

Israel has seized control of all Palestinian towns except Jericho to try to halt terror attacks. Maher said the recurrence of attacks this week on the West Bank and in Tel Aviv showed "violence will not control violence."

Maher said the attacks stemmed from Palestinian despair over Israel's occupation.

Bush and Powell also were meeting with Foreign Ministers Marwan Muasher of Jordan and Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

"The president sees avenues for progress," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"Despite terrorist acts, the president is determined to continue the political process so prospects for peace can be enhanced," he said.

Maher said Egypt agreed with Bush's vision of two states - Israeli and Palestinian. But he called on the administration to provide a "roadmap" for reaching that goal.

Valuable time has been lost, and attacks may have been averted, if the United States and Israel did not insist that terror subside before going ahead to set up a Palestinian state, the Egyptian minister said.

Powell is taking up with three Arab diplomats a security plan under development at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Since Bush has made curbs on violence a precondition for helping to establish a Palestinian state, the Arabs have an incentive to use their influence to stop the attacks.

They are eager to see a state on land Israel would vacate, and are depending on the United States to apply pressure so the Arabs can recover all of the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem.

Deadly attacks on Israeli civilians Tuesday on the West Bank and Wednesday in Tel Aviv may have eroded the relative sense of safety Israelis were beginning to feel when the Israeli army took over all Palestinian towns except Jericho. Until this week, the last deadly attack on Israelis was June 20.

Bush issued a statement offering condolences and calling the bombings "attacks on our efforts to restore hope to the Palestinian people."

"The American people and I condemn these despicable acts of terror," Bush said. "Peace cannot be built on a platform of violence against innocents."

Powell said in New York earlier this week, "we are in touch with the Palestinians" on the emerging plan and European Union diplomat Javier Solana said American officials would go to the region in about two weeks for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

CIA Director George Tenet or Assistant Secretary of State William Burns probably would head the U.S. group, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Egyptians, Jordanians and Saudis may participate in a new security force, as well as Americans working in civilian jobs, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We are in a position now to start talking to the parties about ideas on security," the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday.

Meantime, Bush has not demanded that Israelis withdraw their forces from the West Bank. Their presence, until the attacks this week, had indicated strong tactics could shore up Israel's security.

But Egypt's Maher said Tuesday in New York that Israel should realize now, with attacks resumed, that force was not the answer.

Bush again branded Yasser Arafat a failure Wednesday and urged Palestinians to find another leader.