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Foreign Ministers Review International Issues Ahead of G-8 Summit - 2002-06-14

The foreign ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and Europe have wrapped up two days of meeting in Witstler, British Columbia.

The continued conflict in the Middle East has highlighted the talks, along with cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the dispute on Kashmir between Indian and Pakistan. But the Ministers leave the alpine ski resort with no agreement on a time or place for a suggested international conference on the Middle East.

Speaking at a joint news conference, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated dissatisfaction with Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat's role on halting terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

Mr. Powell said he hopes it will get better. "I believe we do have an obligation to deal with him and other Palestinian leaders as well," he emphasized. "We hope that performance will improve and we will work with other Palestinian leaders as well as recognizing the role he currently plays within the Palestinian community."

Chris Patten, of the European Union echoed Mr. Powell's comments, saying that reality does not allow the world community to avoid dealing with Mr. Arafat. "You'll can't choose the leaders you deal with," he said. "You have to take reality as it is. And that it what we will continue to do."

The ministers also discussed non-proliferation, disarmament, and safeguarding the world's nuclear stockpiles.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, who hosted the meetings, says the meeting was money well spent. He noted it gave the delegates a good chance to talk honestly to each other in person. "There is a tremendous opportunity for us face-to-face, to focus on particularly the war against terrorism," he said. "A great deal was accomplished by bringing us together and enabling us to have frank conversations on that." The ministers said that the international coalition to fight terrorism remains firmly in place. They also urged an urgent mediated settlement on the territory dispute between India and Pakistan. They promised to work with the two countries towards a diplomatic solution and to help eradicate terrorist cells in the region.

Absent from the meeting was the usual gathering of militant protesters. Only 36 gathered outside for a few minutes on the first day and only four greeted delegates Thursday.

The meeting was in anticipation of the Group of Eight leaders meeting near Calgary later this month.