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Lawmaker says Mideast may need US role
( 2003-08-25 11:28) (Agencies)

Military involvement by the United States and its NATO allies may be necessary to create stability between Israel and the Palestinians, a key lawmaker said Sunday.

``If we're serious about having a situation of stability, a very direct action, I think, is going to be required,'' said Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on CNN's ``Late Edition.''

International mediators want Yasser Arafat to relinquish control of security forces and allow Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and the U.S.-backed security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, to clamp down on militants in response to a Hamas bus bombing that killed 21 people in Jerusalem last week.

Arafat continues to command several of the security branches, while Abbas and Dahlan supervise the rest. Instead of giving up control over armed men, Arafat has proposed passing the supreme command to a loyalist, effectively sidelining Dahlan.

The Bush administration ``has to figure out who is going to go after the terrorists,'' Lugar said, adding that U.S. military involvement ``has to be a potential possibility.''

A Democratic colleague agreed.

``You have to have some military entity that is going to be able to control the terror. Otherwise, the situation is going to dissolve into nothingness,'' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

In Gaza City Sunday, Israeli helicopters fired missiles at a group of armed men sitting near the Gaza City beach, killing four Hamas fighters, including a fugitive commander.

Earlier Sunday, Palestinian militants fired a new, longer-range rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The rocket, which landed about four miles from the Israeli city of Ashkelon, fell on a beach just 30 feet from an unmanned lifeguard post, the Israeli army said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who serves on the Armed Services Committee and is part of a congressional delegation to the region, said peace won't be a reality until the Palestinian security forces are united under Abbas.

``He has got to win a political power struggle with Yasser Arafat because he's holding onto the old way of dealing with Israel,'' Graham said on ``Fox News Sunday.'' ``He doesn't really want a two-state solution; Abbas does. And Abbas has got to make the decision to declare war, politically and militarily, against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.''

Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., who recently returned from the region, said the United States must do more to support Abbas and his cabinet, ``to provide them with adequate resources, whether it's to build their own force or expanding the power of their own force and strength of their own force, or to figure out ways in which to undermine Arafat and to remove him as a symbol or instrument of power there with Hamas and other Palestinians.''

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