U.S. says Mideast security situation "seriously deteriorating".

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Wednesday, February 14 3:35 AM SGT


US says Mideast security situation 'seriously deteriorating'


The United States said Tuesday the security situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories had seriously deteroriated since the weekend and threatened to spiral out of control.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said political assassinations carried out by Israel and attacks on Israeli settlers by Palestinians had to stop if peace talks were to resume.

"Our assessment is that the events of the last 48 hours represent a serious deterioration of the security situation on the ground at a time that we all recognize is very, very sensitive," Boucher told reporters.

"The use of Israeli helicopter gunships, Palestinian attacks against settlements and motorists, the use of mortars by Palestinians and the targeted killings by the Israeli defense force today are producing a new cycle of action or reaction which can become impossible to control," he said.

Boucher referred to the latest in a series of pinpoint strikes against Palestinian activists in which the Israeli army killed a senior officer in Yasser Arafat's personal bodyguard, accusing Massud Ayyad of being a terrorist.

Ayyad was killed when an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a volley of rockets on his car in the northern Gaza Strip. In Gaza and elsewhere, two Palestinians were killed in other incidents and gunbattles raged, leaving around 36 Palestinians wounded.

"Both the Israelis and the Palestinians need to do everything they can to stop the violence, to maintain calm, and to create the right environment for dialogue and negotiation," Boucher said.

He spoke as envoys sent to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon met with US State Department officials and a Palestinian official urged President George W. Bush "not to repeat the mistakes of the past" in the peace.

-- Swissrose (cellier@azstarnet.com), February 14, 2001

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