Secretary of State Colin Powell continued telephone diplomacy Friday to try to calm the situation in the Middle East. He said the United States wants to see Israeli restraint but that administration efforts are focused on getting Hamas and other radical Palestinian factions to halt terrorism.
The Secretary spoke to Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Friday as he continued calls aimed at ending violence that threatens progress made thus far on the international "road map" to Middle East peace.
Mr. Powell told reporters the United States is "anxious" to see Israeli restraint in its military operations in Palestinian areas, but that the focus of U.S. efforts is bringing an end to terrorist attacks.
"It's important to get the terror down," said Colin Powell. "And if the terror goes down then the response to terror will no longer be required. So we have to get moving and bring the terror down. All of our efforts are focussed on Hamas, and persuading Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations that this is the time to abandon terror."
Mr. Powell noted that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, at last week's Aqaba summit, called for an end to the armed "intifada."
He said he hopes anyone who claims or pretends to represent the interests of the Palestinian people and their hopes for a state will hear his plea and end violent activity.
The Secretary of State meanwhile brushed aside a proposal by the U.N. chief, Mr. Annan, for a peacekeeping force to stem the unrest.
His spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. officials have long considered the idea of putting troops between the two sides, but believe that the third-party monitoring envisaged in the "road map" is a better alternative.
"There have been people writing about sending NATO to the Middle East for 15 years," he said. "It's not a brand new idea. Somehow every time there's violence people say it again. But upon analysis I think it's been looked at again and again. And the view has always been that you have to help the parties make the commitments, carry out the commitments, and above all help the parties themselves cooperate on security."
Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, named by President Bush to spearhead U.S. "road map" implementation, is due in Israel Saturday to begin first mission to the region in his new capacity.
He'll lead a team of U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials who will mediate between the sides as they try to implement the plan, which aims at a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict by the end of 2005.
Secretary Powell himself is due back in the area at the end of next week, when he heads the U.S. delegation for a special meeting of the World Economic Forum in Jordan.