Bush to assemble national security team to assess Powell visit outcome; Powell may return next month
U.S. President, George Bush, will assemble his national security team Thursday to hear from Secretary o State, Colin Powell, and discuss the possibility of a Mideast peace conference.
Bush wants to be sure the idea makes sense before embracing it, said a senior administration official.
CIA Director George J. Tenet is likely to head to the region next week, but a final decision will be made after Powell's White House meeting, the official said. Bush and Powell also will discuss when the latter plans to return.
An American official travelling with Powell said Thursday that Powell could return to the Middle East within the next two to three weeks.
According to AP, Bush administration hopes to "restart the clock" to conditions that were in place before the bombing that killed 28 Israelis in Netanya on March 27, with Israel getting a resumption of Tenet-led security talks and the Palestinians knowing that the political process is not far behind, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another top official said the region would get a steady stream of visits from U.S. officials prodding the parties toward political and security contacts. Bush is trying to find a way to give Israel hope for an end to “terrorism” while giving Palestinians, in return, a reason to believe they will get their own state and land gains, the official said.
U.S. officials said Bush is no longer tied to the old view that security talks must proceed negotiations on political issues, such as dividing up land and deciding the contentious issue of Israeli settlements. He is willing to mix up the formula — or find a new one — if that would jump-start talks.
Powell said the U.S. would hold talks with the Palestinians over the next few days to evaluate the capabilities of their security forces - which have been damaged by the ongoinig Israeli operation in the West Bank.
The Americans will be represented by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and veteran State Department official Aaron Miller; special envoy Anthony Zinni is also slated to return soon. (Albawaba.com)
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