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Powell: Israel's Withdrawal from West Bank  On Schedule - 2002-04-21

Secretary of State Colin Powell says he is pleased that Israel's withdrawal from West Bank cities is moving forward. But he says the situation in the region remains serious.

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Israeli withdrawal is continuing on schedule. "I am pleased that this withdrawal now seems to be well underway and reaching the point Prime Minister Sharon said to me it would reach by the end of this week," Mr. Powell said.

During an appearance on the NBC television program Meet the Press the Secretary said the United States wants to see a total withdrawal. But he said he understands that there are extraordinary circumstances in Bethlehem and Ramallah where Yasser Arafat remains confined in his headquarters.

Mr. Powell suggested that Israel might want to ease its restrictions on the Palestinian leader. "I think sooner or later he has to be given access to the means of control, the means of communicating with others," he said. "And so I think we will have to work through that problem."

Mr. Powell said he has no immediate plans to return to the region, but added he expects to go back in the not too distant future.