Secretary of State Colin Powell, preparing for weekend talks with Middle East leaders in New York, is welcoming Israel's military pullback from the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Administration officials say there will be no new U.S. Middle East initiative presented in the talks, which will take place on the sidelines of the re-scheduled U.N. General Assembly.
Secretary Powell, who is expected to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres among others in New York, says he hopes to at least move the parties back to the relatively-promising situation that existed before the assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi in mid-October.
Meeting reporters after talks here with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Hamad al-Sabah, Secretary Powell welcomed Israel's pullback from Ramallah, the largest of several Palestinian towns partially occupied after the Zeevi killing. "I'm pleased that the Israelis have withdrawn from Ramallah, and I hope they'll withdraw from the other villages in the near future," he said. "I hope that Chairman Arafat will continue to do all he can to end the violence. And I am very anxious to get back on the track we were on a few weeks ago. We were starting to see serious discussions between the two sides with respect to cease-fire and non-belligerency."
No schedule for Mr. Powell has been announced. But officials here say he is likely to also see Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara and meet collectively with Gulf foreign ministers in talks also covering the U.S. war on terrorism as well as the peace process.
Mr. Powell heard a reaffirmation of Kuwaiti support for the anti-terrorism campaign in his meeting with Foreign Minister al-Sabah who is also the Gulf state's acting Prime Minister.
The Kuwaiti official said he reconfirmed what he called his government's "solid understanding" for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and hopes for its success.
Heard through an interpreter, he said the Kuwaiti parliament is moving to curb financial flows to terror organizations, and that unprecedented controls have already been imposed on charitable groups.
We have put all charity organizations in Kuwait under complete control of the financial vehicles of Kuwait like the central bank and the ministry of finance, he said. We never had such tight control. But now every charity activity will be under tight control of the government.
The Kuwaiti official said there had not been any illegal diversion of funds to terrorists from charities operating in Kuwait, and that the government moves assure that there will be none in the future.
Under questioning, Secretary Powell insisted that Saudi Arabia is fully cooperating with the U.S. anti-terror campaign, in remarks reflecting frustration over news reports that the administration is dissatisfied with the Saudi response.
Mr. Powell said Saudi authorities long ago, as he put it, "excommunicated" Osama bin Laden for terror activities, severed relations with Taleban rulers in Afghanistan, and that they have been responsive to "every" request the United States has put before them.