SLUG: 2-288961 Powell / Mideast (L)
TITLE=POWELL / MIDEAST (L)
BYLINE= PAULA WOLFSON
INTRO: U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell says he is pleased the Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities is well underway. But he says the situation is still serious. And as V-O-A's Paula Wolfson reports he is suggesting that Israel should ease restrictions on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
TEXT: Secretary Powell says the withdrawal is moving forward according to the timetable laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
I am pleased this withdrawal now seems to be well underway and reaching the point that Prime Minister Sharon said to me it would reach by the end of this week.
During an appearance on the N-B-C television program "Meet the Press" Mr. Powell stressed the United States wants to see a total withdrawal. But he said there are unique situations in Bethlehem and Ramallah that must be resolved before Israel will pull out its forces.
In Bethlehem, Palestinian gunmen remain inside the Church of the Nativity in a stand-off with Israeli soldiers. And in Ramallah, tanks still encircle Yasser Arafat's headquarters.
The secretary of state said the Palestinian leader can still work to stop the violence in the region despite his confinement in Ramallah. But he said Mr. Arafat would be able to do much more without the Israeli restrictions.
///POWELL ACT TWO///
The Palestinian people look to him, other Palestinian leaders look to him for their instructions and for their guidance. And so I think the more access he is given, the (more) opportunity he is given to show whether or not he can control forces and bring the situation under control.
Secretary Powell was asked if he intends to return to the region. He said he has no immediate plans to resume his Middle East shuttle diplomacy, but added he expects to return in the not-too-distant future. He said the situation remains serious and difficult to resolve.
///POWELL ACT THREE///
It has calmed down a little bit but I wouldn't want to say it is over. It is a very tough one.
The Secretary of State took the administration's message to all five of the major Sunday television news interview programs seen in the United States. He told A-B-C'S "This Week" that intense discussions are underway within the administration on next steps. He indicated there are no plans to seek help from two former U-S presidents who remain deeply interested in the peace process: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
///POWELL ACT FOUR///
I speak to both of them on a regular basis, as well as other former leaders and other former presidents. I don't have a role for either of them at the moment, but I am pleased that they continue to keep their interest in the region.
President Bush met with his national security team Saturday at Camp David to discuss the situation in the middle east. Among those attending the session at the presidential retreat were Secretary Powell, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet. (signed)
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