Report: Powell will not Visit Lebanon During Middle East Tour
US Secretary of State Colin Powell will not visit Beirut in his upcoming tour of the region starting Saturday, reported the Daily Star newspaper, quoting a US diplomatic source as saying.
The source said that instead, Powell's assistant for Middle East affairs, Edward Walker, will visit Beirut along with other regional capitals in four or five weeks to prepare a complete file on the country, said the paper.
Powell will visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
The source added that Powell left Lebanon off the itinerary because his priorities center on ensuring that Arab states abide by United Nations resolutions against Iraq, and on containing the security situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Accordingly, Lebanon was not listed as a priority for Powell and the National Security Council.
Powell will visit Beirut in May at the earliest, the source said.
Other sources said efforts made by Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafik Harirq, through US Ambassador David Satterfield, and other Lebanese who know Powell, had failed to persuade him to put Beirut on his itinerary.
Lebanese government and parliamentary sources have questioned why Powell is not coming through Beirut, said the Daily Star.
Other sources were in favor of a wait-and-see attitude.
They said, however, that Powell was wrong if he thought the conflict with Israel was solved through the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Powell said Tuesday that the 10-year drive to contain Iraq had worked, but warned pressure must be kept on Saddam Hussein to frustrate his quest for weapons of mass destruction, according to AFP.
With opposition to sanctions on Iraq building in parts of the Arab world and Europe, Powell said the United States was looking for ways to reinforce its policy against Baghdad.
But he told reporters after meeting German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, the 10-year drive to stifle Iraq's military aspirations had worked and should be prolonged.
"The fact of the matter is that both baskets, the UN basket and what we and our other allies have been doing in the region, have succeeded in containing Saddam Hussein and his ambitions," said Powell.
"Containment has been a successful policy, and I think we should make sure we continue until such time as Saddam Hussein comes into compliance with the agreements he made at the end of the war," he added.
The international approach to Iraq came under new scrutiny on Friday, when US and British planes raided Iraqi air defenses in the first confrontation between the Iraqi President and President George W. Bush's new administration.
The operation stirred anger in parts of the Arab world, Russia and Turkey and consternation among some US allies in Europe, including France.
Fischer said given the "immense security risk" posed by Iraq, "we understand the action our allies had to take" but stopped short of offering a firm endorsement of the raids, said the agency.
Powell described the response to the reaction from the Arab world over the weekend "as fairly moderate" and refused to apologize for the action which officials said was taken to protect pilots.
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