Powell Sets Out to Save 'Road Map'

Published June 12, 2003

| Associated Press

Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) plans to meet in Jordan with leaders of Russia, the European Union and the United Nations in an effort to repair the tattered road map for peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.

The meeting will be held at the end of a trip Powell will take next week to Cambodia for an Asia conference and to Bangladesh, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. Amman, the capital, is the likely site in Jordan, he said.

Powell telephoned Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (search) and asked him to make a bigger effort to contain militant groups.

"I believe he can do more," Powell told The Associated Press after calling Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search).

Powell said asked Sharon for implementation of provisions of the road map. Powell credited the prime minister with take some action already, such as dismantling some settlement outposts.

Earlier, Powell telephoned Foreign Ministers Silvan Shalom of Israel, Ahmed Maher of Egypt, Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia and Marwan Muasher of Jordan to appeal for help in stemming the violence in the region, Boucher said.

Powell will arrive in Jordan from Bangladesh June 19 and while there will attend the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea city along with Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative.

It was in Jordan last week that Bush reached agreement with Sharon and Abbas to proceed with the peacemaking blueprint that had been prepared jointly by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

Powell will be joined in Jordan by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search), Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and senior officials of the European Union.

The informal group, known as a Quartet (search), devised the road map that calls for an end to 33 months of conflict, establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005 and other measures designed to settle the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Approval of the road map raised hopes that Israel and the Palestinians would at least begin taking steps to resolve their differences.

Sharon, for instance, promised to dismantle settlement outposts on the West Bank, to free scores of Palestinian prisoners and said he accepted the idea of a Palestinian state.

Abbas, for his part, said force no longer would be used in a continuing Palestinian uprising against Israel.

But beginning on Sunday, with Palestinian militants killing four Israeli soldiers in Gaza, violence recurred, with damage to any reconciliation that may have been achieved at Aqaba.

Bush has scolded Israel for trying to assassinate a Hamas (search) leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, in Gaza and deplored a bloody attack on a bus in Jerusalem for which the group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department, took responsibility.

The president on Wednesday urged all nations "to fight off terror, to cut off money to organizations such as Hamas, to isolate those who hate so much that they're willing to kill to stop peace from going forward."

Bush said the terrorists were trying to undercut the desires of Abbas and others for a peaceful solution.

On Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, said Israel has the right to defend itself. "If (Abbas) doesn't destroy terrorists and their infrastructure, Israel must," he said. "And make no mistake: America must stand by Israel as it fights its own war on terror."

At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said terror groups were enemies of both Israel and Abbas and "are trying to stop a hopeful process from moving forward,"

"The issue is Hamas," he said.

Boucher said "the violence must be stopped," but in the meantime Israel and the Palestinians should carry out the provisions of the road map.

The Israeli government, apparently willing to risk the strong support it has received from Bush, was not deterred by the president's expressed concern about the impact its strikes might have on his peacemaking effort and on the standing of Abbas, who is backed by the administration as a moderate committed to peace with Israel.

In the third Israeli airstrike in 24 hours, Israeli helicopters on Thursday fired several missiles at the car of a Hamas fugitive, killing seven people, including the wanted man, his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

Sharon said Wednesday he would not let up in his assault on terror groups. Israel will "continue to pursue until the end the terrorists and those that send them," he said.

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