Former United States President George W Bush ordered the CIA to search for a replacement for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after the escalation of the second Intifada in 2001, the BBC said, quoting recently released British documents.
The US effort came after the failure of the Camp David negotiations in 2000 between Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The talks followed the escalation of violence in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
According to the BBC documents, Bush expected early on that Ariel Sharon, who succeeded Barak, would use the Gaza Strip to sow divisions among the Palestinians.
The documents deal with discussions that took place between the United Kingdom and the US a few months after Bush and his administration, which was dominated by neoconservatives, entered the White House.
When Bush was inaugurated in January 2001, the second Palestinian uprising was at its height. It had erupted in late September 2000 when Sharon entered the courtyards of Al Aqsa Mosque, an act widely seen by Palestinians as a provocation.
The Bush administration called on Arafat to stop the uprising to lay the groundwork for the start of security negotiations with Israel. It also vetoed a draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council, which proposed sending a UN observer force to protect Palestinian civilians from Israeli forces in the occupied territories.