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Powell Speech Generates Positive Arab Reactions - 2001-11-20

Secretary of State Colin Powell's Monday speech focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is generating some positive responses in the Arab world. Political analysts say it appears the Bush administration is now fully engaged in the peace process.

Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech Monday night was called "strong and decisive," and will likely be very well received throughout the Arab world. That is the assessment of the head of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Mr. Powell's speech provided a framework for peace negotiations to begin in earnest, According to Abdel Moneim Said. "To a large extent, his speech was decisive, it has a good skeleton to start with," he said. "It put certain credibility of action to words. So I think, with cautious optimism towards the future, I will say that will be very much supported."

In his speech Mr. Powell indicated Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have to "arrest, prosecute and punish perpetrators of terrorist acts" against Israelis and said Israel would have to stop building Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

Wallid Kazziha is a political science professor and analyst at American University in Cairo. He says Mr. Powell's speech provides what he calls real optimism that the peace process will move forward. "On the one hand, Palestinians will refrain from any acts of violence of course," he said. "In return, the Israelis will do the same thing, but Israel will have to freeze the expansion of the settlements. When you combine these two factors there is room for an initiative to take hold."

Mr. Kazziha said Arabs and the Palestinians would, in his view, "completely embrace Mr. Powell's willingness to contribute an observer force that could eventually monitor and verify a peace agreement."

Middle East political analyst Dia Rashwan says while the United States will play a major role in any peace initiative, some of the issues, such as Jerusalem, will have to be decided by leaders throughout the Middle East. "No leader in the Middle East could decide a future of Jerusalem alone," said Dia Rashwan. "Jerusalem is an issue for all the Arab and Moslem countries and they should participate in deciding the issue of Jerusalem."

Secretary of State Powell said the immediate mission is to help both parties achieve a "durable cease-fire" and to then follow steps for a cooling off period before negotiations can begin.

All three analysts say appears the Bush administration is now fully engaged in achieving a peace process in the Middle East.