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Powell Launches Effort to Stop Israeli-Palestinian Violence - 2003-06-12

Secretary of State Colin Powell was telephoning Middle East leaders Thursday, urging action against Hamas and other Palestinian groups he says are trying to wreck chances for progress on the "road map" to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Mr. Powell returns to the region for first-hand talks on the situation next week.

Mr. Powell called his counterparts from Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in a round of telephone diplomacy aimed at preventing recent violence, including Wednesday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem, from reversing early progress on the international "road map" to Middle East peace.

Delivering opening remarks to an economic meeting in Washington, Mr. Powell said he is urging Arab governments to do everything they can to deny political and economic support to terrorist elements he said are trying to sabotage the hopes for regional peace raised by last week's U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian summit in Aqaba.

"I've been on the phone most of the morning, talking to the leaders in the region, to encourage them to come down hard on Hamas and Palestinian Jihad and these other terrorist organizations that are determined to deny us this latest opportunity for peace," he said, "who are determined to deny the Palestinian people the opportunity to have their own homeland, who are determined to use terror to destroy the promise that was put before the world last week in Aqaba. We are just as determined to not let that happen."

Mr. Powell told reporters it would be a "disaster" if terrorists were allowed the wreck the vision of a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, and said it is incumbent upon every nation in the region to speak out against, to stop funding to, and to prevent any resources from reaching, the terrorist factions.

There were similar comments from White House National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Addressing a university audience in Los Angeles, she said the new Palestinian government needs to fight terror and end incitement, while Israel must deal with settlement activity, dismantle outposts and ease what she called "the daily humiliation" faced by ordinary Palestinians. But she said responsibilities in the peace process extend beyond the two principals to the conflict.

"Real progress requires all of us to recognize that there are more than just two parties with responsibilities in this conflict," he said. "The Arab states, the neighboring states must be partners in that peace. They have influence with the Palestinians and they must use it to encourage reform and promote peace. They too have responsibilities to fight terror and incitement among their own people."

Officials here said Ambassador John Wolf, the U.S. diplomat charged with monitoring compliance of the parties with their "road map" obligations, will leave Friday on his first visit to the Middle East in his new capacity.

And it was announced that Secretary Powell will return to the region himself late next week after a trip to Asia and stops in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Mr. Powell, who will attend a special session in Jordan of the World Economic Forum, will meet on the sidelines with his partners in the Middle East "quartet", U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana.

He is also expected to hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and possibly others in the area, before his scheduled return to Washington June 23.