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Latest Palestinian Attack Should Not Derail Peace Process, say US Officials - 2003-06-08

Top American officials say a deadly attack by militant Palestinians against an Israeli army post should not derail the Middle East peace process.

Speaking on the NBC Television program Meet the Press, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice condemned the latest Middle East violence, saying the attack is an attempt to undermine two important summits in the region last week.

"At Sharm al-Sheik and then at Aqaba, we had the entire Arab world there, with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians, with Bahrain as head of the Arab League," she said. "We had a very successful summit in Aqaba, in which parties committed themselves to fight terrorism and pursue the road to peace. Now, there are going to be those who try and make this stillborn. But the parties need to stay on track."

In a separate interview on CBS television's Face the Nation, Ms. Rice said Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has Washington's firm support, even though polls show he does not enjoy widespread popularity at home.

"Prime Minister Abbas is going to have the support of his own people because he is going to be able to deliver for them in ways that the former Palestinian leaders, or even leaders who are still there, have not been able to deliver," he said. "Let us be very clear: The Palestinian people probably have their best chance now at statehood, their best chance of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, their best chance of living in peace and prosperity, side-by-side with Israel, that they have had in a very, very long time."

Secretary of State Colin Powell told Fox News Sunday that Prime Minister Abbas has vowed to stop terrorism in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Mr. Powell said the United States will do everything it can to help that effort. The secretary also called for Israel to live up to its end of the bargain, namely to dismantle unauthorized settlements.

Meanwhile, Secretary Powell said the Mideast peace process is moving forward, with Ambassador John Wolf heading to the region to set up a permanent mission to monitor progress.

"We are putting Ambassador Wolf on the ground in the next week or so," he said, "with people to help monitor the situation between the two sides, help them to begin talking to each other in a more effective way, to rebuild confidence and trust between the two sides."

Mr. Powell added that President George W. Bush has made peace in the Middle East one of his top priorities.