AJCongress tells Arafat he is failing to curb terrorism

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JERUSALEM — Leaders of the American Jewish Congress voiced their "frustration and disappointment" that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not doing enough to curb terror attacks against Israel.

In a meeting Friday of last week at Arafat's Gaza headquarters, the 15-member AJCongress contingent expressed their outrage over recent Hamas suicide bombing attacks in Israel and demanded that Arafat work harder to capture wanted terrorists.

But Arafat "didn't seem disposed to accept any responsibility on his part," AJCongress executive director Phil Baum said in an interview after the meeting.

Instead, Baum added, Arafat "seems ready to blame almost everyone else for the recent spate of terrorist activity."

The leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization "insisted that he is doing everything he can, that his jails are overflowing with terrorists," Baum said.

"He claimed that the primary source of terrorism is in Jordan, that the heads of the terrorist organizations are based there."

According to Baum, Arafat reiterated his oft-quoted claim that "the terrorists are supported by right-wing Jewish elements within Israel who are collaborating to stop the peace process and who also are supported by sources in the U.S."

The delegation, which included AJCongress president David Kahn and honorary president Howard Squadron, warned Arafat "the patience of Israelis and of peace-loving people all over the world is running thin," Baum said.

"We told him that unless something effective is done to curb these activities, the peace process is gravely endangered," he said.

The group also called on Arafat to make the same condemnations of terrorist violence when addressing Palestinians as he does to English-speaking audiences.

The AJCongress leaders met with Arafat after holding a weeklong series of meetings in Israel with government officials, including Prime Minister Shimon Peres, to discuss the future course of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the wake of the terror attacks.