Powell plans to hold talks in Damascus
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday the Bush administration had begun a "very vigorous diplomatic exchange" with Syria and he intended to go to Damascus for talks with President Bashar Assad.
Insisting anew that Syria expel officials of the fallen Iraqi government who crossed the border, Powell said in an interview, "Syria does not want to be a safe haven in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Powell said, "Lots of messages have been passed back and forth" between Washington and Damascus through U.S. Ambassador Theodore Kattouf, and via Britain, France and Spain.
In fact, Powell told Associated Press Television News he had spoken earlier in the day with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio "about messages she might deliver" when she goes to Damascus this weekend.
Beyond that, Powell said, "I would expect to travel to Syria to have very candid and straightforward discussions with my foreign minister colleague (Farouk al-Sharaa) and with President Bashar Assad."
Powell indicated the stop in Damascus would be part of a broader trip designed to spur peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians. Powell said once a roadmap for such peacemaking was announced, "we will see a much more active American engagement for the simple reason we now have a prime minister on the Palestinian side that we can work with." (Albawaba.com)