SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) on Sunday blamed Yasser Arafat (search) for blocking U.S. efforts to strengthen Palestinian security forces as a means of ending terror attacks on Israel.
Winding up his latest effort to push peacemaking forward, without any apparent concrete results, Powell also criticized Arafat for a statement the Palestinian leader made Saturday to his people urging them to "find whatever strength you have to terrorize your enemy."
"Mr. Arafat continues to take actions and make statements to make it exceptionally difficult to move forward" on peacemaking, Powell said at a news conference before returning to Washington from the World Economic Forum (search) held at an isolated Dead Sea resort.
He said Arafat "refuses to allow consolidation of security forces" among the Palestinians, a key U.S. demand intended to curb terror attacks and motivate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) to push ahead with efforts to reach a settlement with the Palestinians.
Powell met Saturday with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) in Amman, the Jordanian capital, and urged him to seize the opportunity for dismantling Israeli settlements in Gaza and some on the West Bank under a proposal offered by Sharon.
Qureia was noncommittal in his public statements afterward, but Powell said the prime minister, on whom the Bush administration has pinned much of its hopes for a reversal in lagging peace efforts, had agreed to look at whatever refinements Sharon makes in his proposal to evacuate all soldiers and the 7,500 Jewish settlers from the coastal strip following its rejection by hard-liners in his own Likud party.
President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is due to meet in Berlin on Monday with Qureia as part of the renewed Bush administration effort to bring about Palestinian statehood sometime next year, a goal the president himself recently acknowledged was in danger of not being met.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher, standing beside Powell at a joint news conference, said he hoped the meeting with Rice "will be a step toward moving the process forward."
Powell, again endorsing Sharon's proposal, called it "a way to get us out of this circle" and said the Israeli people want to move ahead on coming to terms with the Palestinians.
On the touchy issue of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi detainees at a prison in Baghdad, Muasher said "there was an uproar" among Arabs, while Powell said "we are doing everything we can to deal with the frustration in the Arab world."