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Powell Mideast Visit Aims to Boost 'Road Map' Peace Plan - 2003-06-20

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to give new momentum to the international peace plan known as the road map in separate talks Friday with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers. But violence has again erupted with an attack on Israeli settlers near the West Bank town of Ramallah that left one dead and three injured.

In some of the bluntest language heard in some time, Mr. Powell singled out the Palestinian militant group Hamas and denounced it for its involvement in terrorism.

"The enemy of peace has been Hamas, especially over the last two weeks," he said. " As long as they have a commitment to terror and violence and a desire to destroy the state of Israel, I think this is a problem we have to deal with in its entirety."

Mr. Powell said that was the message he was taking to the international community in order to show the militants that they will not succeed.

Senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas responded angrily to Mr. Powell's comments calling him a liar whose statements show he is a slave to Zionists,

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there will be no peace as long as terror continues.

"As long as terror continues, as long as violence continues, as long as this terrible incitement continues, there will be no progress. There will be no peace with terror," he said.

As Mr. Powell spoke came news that one Israeli settler was killed and three others wounded when gunmen opened fire on their car as they drove near the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Secretary Powell said the shooting only illustrates the urgency of keeping the peace process moving " to capitalize quickly and decisively on this moment that history has given to us."

Mr. Powell said some progress has been made and cited the dismantling of West Bank settlement outposts as required by the road map. Israel took apart 11, including Mitzpe Yitzhar where hundreds of setters fought Israeli troops. Thirty people were injured and more than a dozen arrested.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said he welcomes American involvement in the peace effort adding that Israel must also do its part. Speaking through an interpreter, he said Israel must change … from an enemy to a partner and called for specific actions by the Sharon government.

"Israel should release the Palestinian detainees, should lift the restrictions on the movement of citizens and end its provocative acts, to end the settlement(s) and lift the siege imposed on President Arafat," he said.

Mr. Abbas has been trying to persuade Hamas, and other militant groups, to suspend attacks against Israel. He says he prefers negotiating with the militants rather than using force for fear it could spark a civil war.