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Powell's Final Mideast Meeting to Take Place in Ramallah

Secretary of State Colin Powell is ending his Middle East peace mission Wednesday with a final meeting in Ramallah with besieged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The Powell mission spanned 12 days and included stops in seven countries and the West Bank. But the Secretary was signaling in advance that the results will be modest.

In a talk with reporters Tuesday, he cited progress in talks with the two sides, though he said his nearly full week of shuttling between the parties would likely yield something short of a formal cease-fire agreement.

Israel has resisted U.S. calls for an immediate end to its military campaign in the West Bank, though Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has assured the Secretary that the troop withdrawal will largely be completed within a weeks' time.

Both sides are understood to have accepted the idea of an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which U.S. officials hope can be held in May and restore a political dialogue between the sides leading, eventually, to Palestinian statehood.

En route home, the secretary stops in Cairo to review the results of the talks with President Mubarak. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher is also expected to attend the briefing.