Observations on the world today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

All We Said Was No Arafat 

Daily Press Briefing for 3/22/04
Q Does the White House condemn the attack?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, again, what we have said is that Israel has a right to defend herself, but all parties, including Israel, needs to keep in mind the consequences of their actions. Again, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Sheik Yassin is someone who was personally involved in terrorism. That's very well-documented.

Q But if I could just try and spell it out here, the administration's policy remains unchanged concerning targeted assassinations. The United States government opposes that. This was a targeted assassination. So this was wrong in the view of the United States government?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, again, during this time period, we want to continue to urge all parties to show restraint. That's where our focus is, so that we can get back to moving forward on the peace process. Again, we've made it very clear this is not something we had advance warning about.

Q But I'm just wondering, is there some kind of exception to the policy of opposing targeted assassinations for terrorist leaders? Or is that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, keep in mind what I said about Hamas -- Hamas is a well-known terrorist organization. They have carried out atrocious attacks on innocent men, women and children. That's very well-known. And we need to keep in mind the importance of trying to get everybody focused back on working together on the peace process. And that's where our focus is, and that's where it will remain.

Q While the United States government and others had identified Sheik Yassin as a terrorist, obviously, many people in the Palestinian Territories saw him as a patriot and a leader from their point of view, and so his killing changes the security situation there somewhat. Given that, and given that Israel had tried to kill him in the past, had the administration ever communicated to Israel anything about Sheik Yassin? We know that the President has asked that Yasser Arafat not be killed. Was there any kind of message like that concerning Sheik Yassin?

MR. McCLELLAN: What I can tell you is that we had no knowledge that they were going to carry out this effort that they did over the weekend. And I think we've made that very clear. Dr. Rice made it clear earlier on the shows, as well. But she also emphasized that there's always the possibility of a better day in the Middle East. And certainly, Israel has offered some interesting ideas in that respect. And so that's where our focus remains, so that we can get all parties moving back on the peace process.
Earlier, Condaleeza Rice had said that we are troubled by the killings and that we had no advance warning.

The British, on the other hand were very critical.

"What has happened this morning is clearly a setback -- there is no point pretending otherwise," a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) told a press briefing.

"We have repeatedly made clear our opposition to Israel's use of targeted killings and assassinations," he said Monday.

"We recognise Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, but equally any steps should be within international law and should be neither disproportionate nor excessive."
Why can't we just say that?

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