The United States is making clear its strong support for the revised Cyprus settlement plan announced by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan late Wednesday in Switzerland. The plan, to be put before voters of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities April 24, would create a federation of two constituent states that would enter the European Community a week later.

The U.S. endorsement of the Annan plan came from Secretary of State Colin Powell, who in a written statement from Berlin called the presentation of the final settlement package a "historic moment and a powerful signal of reconciliation."

Mr. Powell said the outcome was necessarily a compromise in which neither party got everything it sought. But he said the United States share's Mr. Annan's assessment that the final settlement meets the basic needs of both sides, and the choice is now in the hands of the Cypriot people.

Secretary-General Annan announced his intention to put the plan to a simultaneous referendum in the two parts of Cyprus after leaders of the island's rival communities failed to hammer out a deal between themselves on terms of a settlement.

In an emotional late night speech at the Swiss resort of Buergenstock, where he had hosted week-long negotiations, the U.N. chief said he had tried to accommodate the competing concerns of the two sides to create and win-win situation, and believes he has succeeded.

"This plan is inevitably a compromise. It does not satisfy everyone's demands," he said. "But I believe it meets the core interests and addresses the key concerns of people on both sides. Let me be clear: the choice is not between this settlement plan and some other magical, mythical solution. In reality at this stage, the choice is between this settlement or no settlement."

Mr. Annan said if approved by both communities, Cyprus would reunify in time to join the European Union as a single entity on May 1.

He said the plan would allow a substantial number of Greek-Cypriots to return to homes left behind in 1974, when the northern section of the island was seized by Turkish troops who invaded after a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

He said Cypriots of both sides will be able to return to vacated homes in areas administered by the other constituent state.

He said the number of Turkish Cypriots would have to relocate in territorial adjustments in the final accord would be fewer than many expected - and the international community will assure that they have adequate housing "and an opportunity to thrive."

Mr. Annan also said the deal will end decades of isolation for the Turkish Cypriots as they come together "as equal partners" under a European mantle with the Greek-Cypriot community in the new federation.

The outcome of the Swiss meeting left unclear whether, or how energetically, the leaders of the two Cypriot communities will campaign for the referendum.

Calling it a moment of high drama, Mr. Annan urged the two sides not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to "seize this chance for peace" in a united republic of Cyprus.