The United States has vigorously condemned Thursday's suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem. The State Department says Palestinian authorities must act against terrorist factions if there is to be any movement on the international "road map" to Middle East peace.
The suicide attack, the first of its kind this year, came as two senior U.S. envoys were in the region trying to facilitate progress on the "road map."
Officials here said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield and special envoy John Wolf curtailed their schedule of meetings, while Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to express U.S. condolences over what he called a "horrendous" act.
In a talk with reporters, Mr. Powell said terrorists have killed innocent people and at the same time struck another blow against the aspirations of the Palestinian people to have a homeland of their own.
"This kind of action has got to stop, and I once again implore the Palestinian leaders, and especially Prime Minister Abu Ala [Ahmed Qureia], to do everything in his power, everything in their power, to ostracize these terrorists, to go after them, to deal with this terrorist activity," he said. "Because as long as it continues, the hopes of both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, for peace will constantly be dashed," he said.
Mr. Powell said the "road map," formally introduced a year ago but largely unimplemented, remains on the table. But he said the more time goes by without progress because of terrorist activity, the more difficult it will be to achieve the goals laid out in the plan and meet its timetable.
The plan calls for corresponding confidence-building actions by Israel and the Palestinians leading to a two-state settlement of the Middle East conflict by the end of 2005.
The secretary of state met reporters after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, whose government has recently begun top-level contacts with Syria on improving relations after years of hostility.
Mr. Powell said that when he met Syrian President Bashar Assad last May, he laid out steps he thought Syria should take to change its relationship with the United States, and its neighbors in the region, including shutting down Damascus offices of radical Palestinian factions.
However, the secretary said he hasn't seen enough action on those steps. "I hope that Syria will reflect on its position, and start to take action to eject from Damascus the leaders of terrorist groups that make it hard for us to find a way forward between the Palestinians and Israelis," he said. "And I hope Syria will look at all the other things we asked it to reflect upon, to include possession of weapons of mass destruction, and as was pointed out in the question, any participation in the shipment of weapons from anywhere through Syria to Palestinian terrorists is to be condemned."
The Bush administration has accused Syria of, among other things, turning a blind eye to foreign militants entering Iraq to attack U.S.-led coalition forces, and of facilitating the flow of Iranian arms to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Syria vehemently denies supporting terrorism and says it has tightened controls along the Iraqi border.