US Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders next week to discuss prospects for reviving the Middle East peace process.
On Monday, Secretary Powell talked of new opportunities for peace in the Middle East following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Bush administration had considered Mr. Arafat an obstacle to progress.
Mr. Powell said, "Hopefully over the next few weeks I'll be able to see how much potential there is in this new opportunity in the Middle East with the passing of Chairman Arafat."
On Tuesday, spokesman Richard Boucher announced Mr. Powell will travel this coming weekend (Nov. 21-22) to Israel and the Palestinian territories to talk about prospects for peace and to offer support for the Palestinian elections for a new leadership.
Mr. Boucher said, "The secretary will meet with Israeli officials and the new Palestinian leadership to discuss how during this period of transition we can move forward toward peace and realize shared goals of the president's vision of two states living side by side in peace and security."
Mr. Boucher says discussions will focus on the elections the Palestinians want to hold in January, and aspects of the so-called 'road map' for peace.
Mr. Boucher said, "He'll also look for ways to revitalize the Palestinian economy and consult on how to ensure the Israeli implementation of the Israeli plan to withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank in a way that advances the road map and the two-state vision."
The announcement of Mr. Powell's trip to Israel and Ramallah comes while interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is consulting with militant groups to try to curb violence ahead of the January elections.
Mr. Powell will also discuss the Palestinian situation on the sidelines of a regional conference about Iraq that is scheduled to take place in Egypt next week.
Secretary Powell announced his resignation on Monday, and President Bush nominated his successor, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, on Tuesday. But Mr. Powell will remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, which is expected in January.