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Powell Travels to Israel Saturday - 2003-05-10


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to arrive in Israel Saturday to begin a round of talks aimed at promoting a new Middle East peace plan.

Mr. Powell is coming to Israel to promote the so-called "road map" to peace initiative, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005.

During his visit, he is expected to urge the Israeli government to make a statement in support of the plan.

Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Mr. Powell will also ask Israel to undertake a serious of measures to ease the plight of the Palestinians, to help pave the way for a resumption of peace talks.

The proposed measures include the lifting of Israeli military closures against the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and allowing the entry of more Palestinian workers into the Jewish state.

Mr. Powell is expected to meet first with the Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, in Jerusalem, and they are expected to hold a joint news conference following their talks.

Mr. Powell then has scheduled a busy day of meetings on Sunday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He is to meet with Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz.

Mr. Powell will then travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah, for talks with a delegation of Palestinian officials headed by the new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen.

Mr. Powell's talks in Ramallah are expected to focus on Palestinian Authority efforts to halt terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups against Israel.

But the secretary of state will not meet with the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat. This is in line with U.S. and Israeli policy to isolate Mr. Arafat, whom President George W. Bush has said should be replaced.