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US Congress: No Talk Until Terror Stops

First Publish: 5/2/2003, 1:09 AM

In a dramatic move, 88 U.S. Senators and 313 House Representatives sent a strongly worded letter to U.S. President George Bush objecting to the emphasis being placed on the Road Map plan. The lawmakers noted that Bush appeared to be shifting away from his previous demands for a complete end to terror before negotiations could take place.

Mirroring President Bush's words, the lawmakers wrote that the Palestinians must begin to seriously fight terrorism and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure as a key first step toward renewed negotiations. The US lawmakers even questioned the entire premise of negotiations at this point in time: "As we have learned from recent history, without a new, empowered Palestinian leadership that is finally committed to fighting terror, there is no one with whom to negotiate and no point in making unilateral concessions."

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John Ensign (R-NV), together with Roy Blunt (R-MO), Steny Hoyer(D-MD), Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) in the House, authored the letter.

The letter adopts Prime Minister Sharon's traditional demand that Palestinian leadership must not be judged by what it says, but by what it does. "While recent political changes in the Palestinian Authority are a positive step," reads the letter, "it is only the start of what is needed... Actions - not just promises - are necessary for real progress."

AIPAC - The American Israel Public Affairs Committee - praised Congress "for demonstrating its commitment to President Bush's vision for peace in the Middle East." The previous day, AIPAC had expressed support for the Road Map as well. "AIPAC does not agree with those who would dismiss the road map," said its statement, "because that would lead to an impasse in the peace process."