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Powell Seeks Immediate Steps Toward Middle East Peace - 2003-05-11


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell heads into a second day of talks today (Sunday) to promote the road map, an internationally-backed plan for stopping violence in the region and creating a Palestinian state within three years.

Mr. Powell meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem, then heads to the West Bank city of Jericho to meet with new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. After a meeting late Saturday with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Mr. Powell said that despite differences over the road map, there is enough agreement on both sides to start implementing the plan.

Mr. Powell opened his tour with what he says was a positive meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom.

Speaking at a joint news conference after their talks, Mr. Powell said although Israel has reservations about the new "road map" for peace, there is enough consensus to start work on the plan.

"I think, I could speak for both us, we find there is enough in the "road map" at this point that we can agree to that. Lets get started and not find obstacles to keep us getting started. This is an opportunity that should not be lost and I think we are both committed to seizing that opportunity," Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Shalom said that Israel is ready to move forward on the peace plan, on condition that the Palestinians stop using violence and terrorism in pursuit of their political goals.

"This is the time that the Palestinians have to decide if they want to remain on the same track of violence or they want to move to the second track (of negotiations) that might give us a glimmer of hope," Mr. Shalom said.

Mr. Powell's meeting with Mr. Shalom is meant to set the stage for a busy round of discussions on Sunday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

He will be meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then with his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen.

Mr. Powell will not meet with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. This is in line with U.S. and Israeli policy to isolate Mr. Arafat whom President Bush says should be replaced.

The plan is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The document calls for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

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