Sharon and Bush Discussed Pollard, Iraq, Syria, Arafat

Sharon Says Bush Meeting 'Extremely Successful,' Seeks Pollard's Release

MidEastWeb E-News Service - FBIS Report - February 10, 2002

Israeli media on the morning of 10 February carries more reports on the 7 February meeting between US President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, focusing mainly on the Palestinian issue but also both leaders' remarks and positions on Iran and Iraq.

State-funded but independent Jerusalem Voice of Israel Network A in English reports at 0500 GMT: "Prime Minister Ari'el Sharon is on his way back to Israel after a three-day visit to the United States. His plane left New York a short time ago.

"During his talks earlier in Washington, the prime minister is said to have asked US President George W. Bush for $800 million in aid. These are funds that were promised to the Baraq government after Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon.

"Sharon canceled his New York engagements scheduled for today because of what has been described by doctors as a cold. He did, however, participate in a Jewish Agency benefit evening for Argentinian Jewry at which $15 million were raised.

"Sources in the prime minister's entourage say Sharon asked President Bush to free Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in the United States for spying for Israel. Sharon also handed the President a letter signed by 110 Knesset members, urging him to release Pollard from jail."

Jerusalem Voice of Israel Network B in Hebrew carries political correspondent Yoni Ben-Menahem's report on its 0505 GMT newsreel, summing up Sharon's US talks: "A few hours ago, the prime minister told us that as far as he is concerned, the meeting with President Bush was extremely successful. The United States agrees with Israel that local, regional, and international pressure on Yasir Arafat should be kept up to force him to stop the terrorism."

Tel Aviv Ha'aretz in English, a left-of-center, independent daily of record, carries a front-page report by diplomatic correspondent Aluf Ben, reporting from New York, which adds: "The United States understands that Israel 'will not sit quietly' if Iraq attacks it in response to any American assault on Saddam Hussein, senior American officials told Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this weekend.

"The officials also promised Israel will be told in advance of any American plan to attack Iraq, so that it can prepare its defenses.

"These were two of the key assurances Sharon had sought in his Washington meetings with President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on Thursday.

"His hosts did not give Sharon any details of the next stages of the US war on terror, saying they have not yet made any final decision. But both Sharon and Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who was also in Washington last week, said they received the impression that the US is determined to act against Iraq, and that Iraq is currently the focus of its Middle East policy.

"Israeli sources said that Iraq will also be the focus of Cheney's visit to the region next month, which will include a two-day stopover in Israel.

"Ben-Eliezer told his American counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, that Israel is preparing for the possibility of an Iraqi strike against it in response to an American attack, including the possibility that it could use chemical or biological weapons. Iraq did not use such weapons during the Gulf War, but Israel believes it may do so this time, Ben-Eliezer said.

"A senior Pentagon delegation, led by Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, will visit Israel next month for a meeting of the joint Defense Policy Advisory Group (DPAG), which has not met since October 2000. The talks will apparently center on preparations for an American attack on Iraq.

"Sharon also discussed the Iranian threat with his hosts -- Tehran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, its support for anti-Israel terrorism in Lebanon and the territories, and its efforts to foment discontent among Israeli Arabs.

"In addition, he warned of the danger that the northern border could heat up, citing incidents such as Hezbollah's recent firing of anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli air force planes on Israel's side of the border. The US believes that Iran is behind Hezbollah's activity, but Sharon said the organization would not act without encouragement, or at least tacit consent, from Syria, the de facto ruling power in Lebanon.

"The Americans therefore promised to warn Syria against permitting any escalation on Israel's northern border. Sharon said the question of restarting Israeli-Syrian negotiations did not arise."

A related report by senior correspondents Shim'on Schiffer and Nahum Barne'a, who are traveling with the prime minister's entourage, on page 2 of independent, centrist, largest-circulation Tel Aviv Yedi'ot Aharonot in Hebrew, adds: "During the visit, Sharon planned to prepare the grounds for an estrangement between the US Administration and Arafat, but the administration informed Sharon even before he boarded his plane that there was no chance of that happening. For the administration, Arafat is still a partner.

"It was explained to Sharon during the visit that the administration expects Israel to stop threatening Iran. The administration is giving Israel a green light to use its judgment in its actions toward the Palestinians, including targeted prevention operations and a siege on Arafat, but it does not agree to Israel's 'rocking the boat' on a regional level. The United States is afraid Israel will interfere with its effort to enlist international support for a war against Iraq."

The report goes on to say: "A report drafted by CIA Director George Tenet for the President prior to the prime minister's departure for Washington suggested that if the United States remains identified with Israel's anti-Palestinian actions, Palestinian terrorism will start directly seeking out US targets and figures."

"Bush and Sharon agreed to meet again when Sharon attends the AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] conference in Washington in late April."

Presented by MidEastweb -
Editors: Diane Balay, Adel Darwish, Ami Isseroff, Leonard Grossman, Josh Pollack, Samir Suwellam, Yasmine Taeb and Kevin Weiss

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