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Israel, U.S. Under Growing Fire in Europe
Wed Apr 3, 4:27 PM ET
By Janet Lawrence
LONDON (Reuters) - Pope John Paul (news - web sites) sharply criticized Israel on Wednesday for "humiliating" the Palestinians, while European newspapers attacked the United States for not doing enough to halt Middle East violence.
In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican (news - web sites) said it had called in the Israeli and U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.
While condemning acts of terrorism, an apparent reference to a recent wave of Palestinian suicide attacks in Israeli towns and cities, the statement included a list of criticisms of the Jewish state.
It said the Pope "rejects unjust conditions and humiliations imposed on the Palestinian people as well as the reprisals and revenge attacks which do nothing but feed the sense of frustration and hatred."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) has sent troops and tanks to reoccupy a string of West Bank towns and villages and besiege Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) in his Ramallah headquarters in response to the suicide bombings.
The Israeli actions, and perceived U.S. inaction, came under increasing European attack on Wednesday.
A German government spokesman said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose country holds the European Union (news - web sites)'s rotating presidency, discussed the crisis by telephone with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
He reiterated their desire to see an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories and a return to peace negotiations.
EU foreign ministers were poised to send foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique to the region on Thursday, diplomats said.
Their mission would be to press for implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1402, calling for a cease-fire, an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian towns and refugee camps and a return to peace negotiations.
The foreign ministers would also demand that Sharon allow the delegates to meet Arafat.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, visiting Morocco, also urged Israel to comply with U.N. resolutions and end its military offensive.
He called for "immediate implementation of the U.N. resolution 1402...because this resolution was clear and supported by the world community."
Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, whose country hosted secret Middle East peace talks in 1993, promised Arafat by telephone to put pressure on the United States to help stop the bloodshed.
Bondevik said Arafat had urged Oslo to push the United States, Israel's main ally, to take a more active role in the crisis.
"I will do that, both through political and diplomatic channels," Bondevik told reporters.
He said he was scheduled to speak to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone on Thursday.
European media added their voice to the criticism of President Bush (news - web sites), accusing him of neglecting the Middle East, siding with Israel and focusing on his "war against terror."
In London, a Financial Times editorial attacked Sharon's "military folly" and said: "A true friend of Israel, as the U.S. undoubtedly wants to be, would not be standing by while this cycle of anger and despair continued. It would be intervening forcefully to turn Sharon away from a military adventure that will simply breed more violence."
The newspaper accused the United States of "inconsistencies owed to a merging of the Middle East crisis into the global war against terrorism."
The Financial Times commented: "Despite the din of calls for more involvement within the U.S. and abroad, the Bush Administration is sticking to its detachment, barricading itself in with contradictory phrases that make it impossible to know what to expect, except failure."
BUSH 'A SPECTATOR'
In France, the left-leaning daily Liberation accused Bush of being a "simple spectator" in the Middle East.
"No doubt intoxicated by what he considers his victory in Afghanistan (news - web sites), George W. Bush appears today, in the eyes of the Middle East, as a president without any real plan," it said.
Alain Frachon, commenting in Le Monde, accused the White House of "a policy of negligence."
"While previous administrations were careful to ensure a fair balance...of good and bad diplomatic noises, that of George W. Bush comes down systematically on the side of Mr. Sharon," he wrote.
Italy's centrist Corriere della Sera said: "Bush's waiting game is growing increasingly less sustainable. Only U.S. intervention, military or diplomatic, can pacify a region that is in flames."
The Dutch broadsheet De Volkskrant said Bush's caution was having the wrong effect. "There is nothing left of the peace process and Iraq has been able to benefit from the increasing anti-American mood in the Arab countries."
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung turned its ire on both Sharon and Arafat. "Piece by piece, Israel is destroying any hope that some life may be breathed back into the peace process begun in Oslo almost a decade ago but moribund for years," the paper said.
"Mr Sharon and Mr. Arafat appear to desire one final battle."