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Powell Ends 2 Days of Talks with Israeli, Palestinian Officials - 2003-05-11

Secretary of State Colin Powell has completed two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on a new Middle East peace plan. He is to meet Monday with Arab leaders in Egypt and Jordan on the next stage of his tour of the region.

Mr. Powell had strong words for the Palestinian leadership, urging it to crack down on militant groups that carry out violent attacks against Israelis.

He made the appeal at a joint news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "We must also see rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Without such actions, our best efforts will fail," Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Sharon said Palestinian violence was the main obstacle holding back peace efforts. "What is needed now are actions that should be taken against the [Palestinian] terrorist organizations," Mr. Sharon said.

Mr. Powell then traveled to Jericho in the West Bank for talks with the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

In a joint news conference after their talks, Mr. Powell said that, while the Palestinians must fight terrorism, the Israelis also have to take steps to improve the lot of the Palestinians. "We have to take steps on the Israeli side that give hope to the Palestinian people and ease their lives, and make it possible for them to get to their workplaces, and for them to begin to live normal lives and for their children to do so," Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Abbas said the Palestinian Authority is willing to fight terror, but also had demands on Israel.

He said Israel must put an end to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, halt assassinations of Palestinian leaders and free Palestinian political prisoners.

He also demanded that Israel allow freedom of movement for Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to leave and return to the West Bank.

The message of the Palestinian leadership is expected to be echoed by Egyptian and Jordanian officials. Mr. Powell is due to hold talks Monday in Cairo and Amman on the next leg of his Middle East tour.

His visit is aimed at promoting the so-called road map to peace plan. The document calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.