The Clinton administration abruptly shifted its line on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, criticizing him for threatening a new rebellion against Israel if his demands were not met in negotiations.
"Such statements are unhelpful and counterproductive," James Foley, the deputy State Department spokesman, said Friday.For months, Arafat has won praise from the administration as a "peace partner," though criticism was implied in statements that his Palestinian Authority had not done all it could to combat terrorism.
At a House hearing Thursday, responding to two members of Congress who assailed Arafat on several fronts, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she and President Clinton had told him there should be no "revolving door" for terrorists, arresting and then freeing them.
In a fiery speech Thursday, Arafat said the Palestinians would declare an independent state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza next year and not wait for a peace treaty with Israel. Arafat also warned of a new Palestinian uprising should there be no progress in the negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Arafat had violated agreements with Israel with the statement.
Palestinian demonstrators, meanwhile, have taken to the streets to support Iraq and condemn Israel and the United States.