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Powell: Peace Process Endangered

May 8, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that the latest suicide bombing in Israel has endangered the hopes of pushing forward with peace talks in the Middle East.

``We note with deep regret the terrorist incidents yesterday ... which once again puts at risk the possibility of going forward,″ Powell said after meetings with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. ``We condemn them and ask all others to condemn them.″

Nevertheless, Powell said Bush administration officials will continue pushing Arab leaders, the Palestinians and the Israelis to work to end violence.

``We must keep moving forward. We must find a way through this crisis,″ Powell said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon angrily blamed the leadership of the Palestinian Authority for the attack on a gambling hall Wednesday that killed 15 Israelis. Sharon immediately headed home to plan Israel’s next move, suggesting his government would retaliate militarily.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, but the Bush administration has said it expects Arafat to take action to stop attacks.

Asked if Arafat had become irrelevant to the situation in the Middle East, Powell called the bombing troubling, but did not criticize the Palestinian leader directly.

``Every time one of these events happens, it takes us off a course we were on for awhile,″ Powell said. ``It’s a course we ultimately have to get back to. ... At the end of the day, we have to find a political solution.″

At the same time, he said U.S. officials will press forward with efforts to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to end corruption and to rebuild a better security apparatus.

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