JERUSALEM – Israel will do "everything in its power" to enable Palestinian elections (search) to take place, the foreign minister said Monday after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (search).
The Palestinians have said Israel must withdraw troops from West Bank towns so the Jan. 9 presidential elections can be held.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (search) did not refer specifically to a troop withdrawal, but said the Palestinians would have "freedom of movement" in the runup to the vote. He said arrangements would be coordinated with the Palestinians.
Israel had reoccupied most West Bank towns in a 2002 military offensive aimed at stopping Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel. Troops have since withdrawn from some areas but continue to enforce tight travel restrictions on Palestinians.
Shalom said "the first priority is the Palestinian election, which will hopefully bring about a Palestinian leadership that we will be able to sit down with."
"I have reassured the secretary today that Israel will do everything in its power to ensure" the elections will go ahead as planned.