WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) on Thursday placed the blame for the current impasse in Mideast peacemaking on Palestinian leaders, saying they had failed to counter terror against Israel.
At a news conference, Powell took an unusual jab also at Egypt, the main U.S. link to the Arabs, as having applied insufficient pressure on the Palestinians to subdue violence and clear the way for peace talks.
Powell is sending the State Department's top Mideast official, Assistant Secretary William Burns (search), to Cairo next week with that message.
"What we need is, I believe, more responsible action on the part of the Palestinian Authority in order to bring terrorism under control, make sure that violence is being brought to an end," Powell said.
On other issues brought up at Powell's first full-scale news conference since he had prostate cancer surgery three weeks ago, he said:
— He has received "encouraging signals" about a possible resumption of six-nation negotiations with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program. But, he said, "we need a clear statement from the North Koreans that they are prepared to bring those programs to an end."
— He was dismissive of criticism in a book, by former Defense Department official Richard Perle (search), that says Powell takes a soft line on foreign policy, undercutting President Bush. "I don't do book reviews," Powell said.
On the Middle East, Powell abruptly dismissed a warning by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) that the Palestinians may abandon their goal of a separate state and push for a single-state solution combining Palestinian territories with Israel if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon takes unilateral peace moves.
"We're committed to a two-state solution," Powell said. "I believe that is the only solution that will work: a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine and a Jewish state, state of Israel, which exists."
What is needed now, Powell said, was for Qureia "to get control of security forces and to use those forces and use the other tools available to him to put down terror and put down violence."
Sharon, despite hints he would move unilaterally, "is looking for reliable partners he can work with," Powell said.
Turning to Egypt, Powell said, "I hope he can build a little momentum to get a little more pressure from Egyptians and others to place on the Palestinian Authority."