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26 June 2002

Powell Explains President's Middle East Policy

(Sec. of State interviewed by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC) (640)
By Benjamin Gross
Washington File Writer
Washington -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said on five nationally
televised news programs on June 25 that President Bush's recently
announced Middle East peace initiative has met with positive reactions
throughout the region.
In answer to a reporter's question, Powell said he had not heard from
the Saudis yet, but that "all of the other Arab nations that have
spoken have given positive responses."
During his discussions of the new U.S. policy, Powell reiterated the
important contributions that a democratically elected Palestinian
government would make to the peace process.
"We would prefer that the leadership that comes up as a result of the
election and the new government that will be formed will be
representative and will reflect the views and the will of the
Palestinian people not to continue down the road of terror and
violence," he said on Fox News's Special Report.
Responding to questions about Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat's
presence in the future of the provisional state, Powell explained that
the president had specifically avoided mentioning his name so as not
to overly personalize the issue.
"He wanted to talk to the Palestinian people," he explained during an
interview on CNN. "He wanted to talk to all Palestinian leaders and
say to them that the direction which you are going now...is not moving
you in the right direction."
Powell refused to comment on possible candidates or results in the
proposed Palestinian elections, prior to the actual implementation of
new constitutional procedures.
"Hold elections which are free and fair and let the Palestinian people
make a judgment based on the circumstances they find themselves in,
where they are not able to get to work, they are not able to lead
normal lives, and let them evaluate the leadership that has produced
these conditions," he said. "Then we will respond to what the outcome
of that election is."
He acknowledged the possibility of radical candidates being chosen,
but maintained that under more democratic conditions, a moderate
leadership, committed to the peace process's success, would emerge.
"There are other leaders in the Palestinian movement," he said on the
CBS Evening News, "and I think more leaders would surface if they
believed there was going to be an open, democratic election."
Powell added that the United States would also request that the
Israeli government take steps to ensure the Palestinians would be able
to implement new constitutional reforms. He emphasized that the
president had already called on Israel to withdraw its forces to
positions held before September 2000, freeze further settlement
activity, and restore Palestinian revenue as prerequisites to peace.
"With respect to what the President said about his expectations for
the Israeli side," he said in his interview on NBC, "his expectations
are rather high...and he has put his full weight behind that."
Powell noted that he had not set a specific date for his next trip to
the Middle East, but that he was already analyzing initial reactions
to the president's plan so that "when I do go, it will be a trip that
will have a purpose and we'll be able to accomplish something."
He acknowledged that the administration was responding to at least one
initial concern from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: the apparent
lack of a specific framework in the president's speech.
"He's looking for details, and those details will be forthcoming."
Powell said on Fox. "We're going to be designing that
mechanism...There are things that can be done right now, even while we
are looking for that new leadership."
Working in partnership with local and regional leaders, he said, the
president's vision of "a state living in peace, side by side with
Israel," could become a reality within the proposed three-year
timeframe.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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