White House: Road Map Best Plan for Mideast

The White House said Wednesday that President Bush's blueprint for peace in the Middle East is the best formula, but left the door open for Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) to meet with those who drafted an alternate plan.

"The secretary of state will make determinations about who he meets with," presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The alternate plan is opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) and some senior Palestinian officials. It's an informal agreement that resulted from three years of talks between former Israeli and Palestinian negotiators working in private without representing their governments.

Powell has said he will meet with the unofficial plan's architects. The meeting would not contradict the U.S. commitment to the "road map" plan outlining the establishment of a Palestinian state, he said.

"The path forward toward peace in the Middle East is the road map (search)," McClellan said. He said other approaches could be useful but he declined to say whether the informal agreement was in that category. He said that was a judgment for others to make.

McClellan said progress toward peace must be made within an official framework. "The best path forward toward achieving the president's vision is the road map," he said.

During a visit to Tunisian on Tuesday, Powell said, "I don't know why I or anyone else in the U.S. government should deny ourselves the opportunity to hear from others who have ideas with respect to peace."

He added that the meeting "in no way undercuts our strong support" for Israel and the road map.

The accord's organizers, led by former Israeli Cabinet minister Yossi Beilin (search) and Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo (search), flew to Washington, where they hoped to meet Powell.