Israeli barrier a problem: Bush
* Israel arrests 8 Palestinians, militants kill ‘collaborator’
* Hamas making rockets that can hit Sharon’s ranch
* Rice unveils democratic blue print
WASHINGTON: President George W Bush said Wednesday that Israel’s construction of a West Bank security barrier is a hurdle in the Middle East process that his administration wants to overcome.
The United States wants the barrier, which has caused new tensions with Palestinians, to be rerouted and is considering financial sanctions against Israel, according to officials.
“We’re talking to Israel about all aspects of the fence,” Bush, who is vacationing at his ranch here, told reporters. “I made it clear, I thought the fence was a problem. And so we’re talking with them.”
“We will continue to work on this issue, as well as other issues,” Bush said, flanked by Secretary of State Colin Powell who was paying him a visit. “The key for a peace to happen is for both parties to assume their necessary obligations and responsibilities.”
Russia reaffirmed its opposition to Israel’s decision to proceed with construction of a controversial security fence in the West Bank.
“Every effort should be made to resolve this problem so that it does not impede the implementation of the roadmap,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov said at a press conference here with William Burns, the top US diplomat for the Middle East.
The radical Palestinian group Hamas has upgraded its homemade Qassam rockets which are now capable of hitting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s ranch, the Yediot Aharonot daily reported Thursday.
A senior minister told the daily that there was “deep concern” at the potential threat posed by the upgrade which brings Sharon’s ranch near Sderot, some 15 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, into range.
The Israeli army arrested eight Palestinians early Thursday and overnight, among them three local leaders of the hardline Islamic Jihad group, military sources told AFP.
The three militants and a fourth unidentified man were apprehended when the army stopped their car at a military roadblock south of Jenin, in the northern West Bank.
Two members of the radical Islamic group Hamas were arrested in Tulkarem, also in the northern West Bank. A young woman and a militant from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement were arrested near Ramallah, the sources said.
Three masked gunmen executed a Palestinian man in the centre of the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday after accusing him of being a collaborator, witnesses and security sources said.
The three said they were from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, witnesses said.
Democratic blueprint: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, from the pages of The Washington Post, advocated Thursday a democratic renaissance in the Middle East similar to that of post World War II in Europe.
Rice voiced the hope that by introducing Iraq to democracy a domino effect could be created in the region. “Much as a democratic Germany became a linchpin of a new Europe that is today whole, free and at peace, so a transformed Iraq can become a key element of a very different Middle East in which the ideologies of hate will not flourish,” she said. —Agencies