Mideast reaction to speech is cautious

Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israelis and Palestinians welcomed Secretary of State Colin Powell’s pledge Monday to renew the push for Mideast peace, but Palestinian officials noted that Powell’s broad strokes did little to bridge the differences that have bedeviled efforts to end 14 months of fighting.

In the speech, delivered at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, Powell called for the creation of a state of Palestine beside Israel, as did President Bush two weeks ago at the United Nations. He said Israel should end settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza and insisted the Palestinians must stop terrorism against Israelis.

But he did not outline a U.S. formula for getting around the impasse on the future of Jerusalem and the fate of 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants — issues that helped unravel an ambitious peace effort a year ago.

Powell said the sides must implement the recommendations of an international commission led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, which in April proposed a cease-fire, a series of confidence-building measures and renewed peace talks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres praised the speech for what he called its "vision."

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath agreed that "on a broad vision, the statement was good."

But he said he was disappointed that Powell avoided specifics. "Without a timeframe and (international) monitors on the ground, this will allow for Israeli procrastination as usual," Shaath said.

Israeli officials were relieved that Powell did not explicitly remove U.S. support for Israel’s demand that seven days of absolute quiet precede any other moves.

Raanan Gissin, spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the speech did not conflict with Israel’s understanding that seven days of calm must be followed by a six-week cooling-off period, and only then would the confidence-building measures begin.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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