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Powell May Extend Stay in Jerusalem To Get Talks Started - 2002-04-09

Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Madrid to consult with his European Union and Russian counterparts in advance of crucial talks beginning later this week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The secretary said his effort to end the Middle East violence will be open-ended.

Mr. Powell, due in Jerusalem late Thursday, had tentatively set aside four days for his meetings with the parties including a session with besieged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.

But in a talk with reporters enroute to Madrid from Cairo, the secretary said he hasn't set a departure date from Jerusalem and was prepared to spend "some while" in his effort to defuse the crisis.

The secretary has already heard expressions of deep concern about the violence from the leaders of Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And in a news conference before leaving Cairo Tuesday, he said he will work in tandem for a cease-fire, and a resumption of peace talks aimed at creation of a Palestinian state.

"All of us know that we must get to a political track. We must get to political discussions which will lead to creation of a Palestinian state called Palestine, living side-by-side in peace with Israel," he said. "These two peoples must live together in peace for there to be a future for their children and their children's children."

Mr. Powell, reiterating the U.S. call for an immediate Israeli pullback from the West Bank, said while the military drive may be deterring suicide bombers, it won't end the problem.

He said with the vision of a state, he hopes the Palestinian people will realize it is in their interest to control their passions and control violence so a political process can get underway.

The secretary is due to discuss the Middle East here Wednesday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, European Union chief diplomat Javier Solana, and with his Russian counter Igor Ivanov.

In his airborne talk with reporters, Mr. Powell says the United States has been talking to Syria and indirectly with Iran to try to get them to restrain Hezbollah guerrillas who have been firing Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel.

He said the last thing the United States and other interested parties want to see now is a "blow up" along the Israeli-Lebanese border that could open a second front in a regional war.