U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Road Map plan for peace in the Middle East remains viable, despite the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
Secretary of State Powell says Mr. Abbas's resignation constitutes an obstacle for ongoing efforts to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr. Powell insisted that the Road Map can continue forward if the Palestinian leadership commits itself to rooting out terrorism.
"Whoever the new Palestinian Prime Minister is, if there is going to be a process to peace, if the Road Map is going to continue to unfold, and I believe it can continue to unfold, then there has to be a concerted effort against Hamas and other terrorist organizations. They have to decide on the cause of peace. They have to decide that, once and for all, all weapons inside the Palestinian authority, any form of power within the Palestinian authority, has to be under legal control. You cannot be a responsible government if you have terrorist organizations operating within your areas of responsibility that go after innocent people and, frankly, destroy the dreams of your own people," he said.
Mr. Powell praised Mahmoud Abbas' short-lived leadership, but said the Palestinian prime minister never got the support he needed to put security forces under his control in order to fight terrorism. He said the root of the problem lies with extremists who do not want to see a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel.
The Secretary of State reiterated that the United States has no intention of negotiating with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, although he stopped short of calling for Mr. Arafat's expulsion, as Israel has advocated.