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Bush Mideast Speech May Be Postponed Until Next Week - 2002-06-20

Secretary of State Colin Powell is telephoning counterparts in the Arab world and Europe, seeking help in creating an environment in which President Bush can effectively present his proposals for Middle East peace. Administration officials say the much-anticipated message could be pushed back to next week with the region in turmoil after the latest suicide bombings. Mr. Powell called the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Russia and also European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana, in a burst of telephone diplomacy aimed at calming the region and in particular generating pressure on the Palestinian Authority to act against terrorism.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Secretary told his counterparts that present conditions are not right for the launch of a U.S. peace initiative, and that his colleagues have a shared obligation to help ease the situation.

"The general context is that everybody does have a responsibility, and we want to work together with these others, to create a climate where the violence decreases and where people can actually seriously listen and look forward to moving down a path of peace," he said.

After getting his call from Mr. Powell, Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, said this week's terror attacks and subsequent Israeli military strikes in Palestinian areas vindicate the need for an early start to a political process.