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Powell Urges Abbas to Restrain Militants

Powell is in Israel for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Powell made his remarks concerning the Palestinians in a joint press conference with Sharon.

Powell said he would speak to Prime Minister Abbas about “efforts they are making to bring violence under control, to end violence, not just through the means of having a cease-fire, but going beyond that,” the Associated Press reported.

Violence continued in the region even as Powell appeared with Sharon. A Palestinian gunman opened fire on a car in the West Bank, killing an Israeli and wounding three others.

Abbas, who met with Powell after the U.S.-Israeli meeting, is reportedly trying to negotiate with Palestinian militant groups in an effort to stop attacks against Israelis.

After meeting with Abbas, Powell said he had urged the newly elected Palestinian leader to work to end the attacks by the militant groups, and called on other leaders in the region to help quell the hostilities.

“Violence and terror is not the way to build a state,” Powell said.

“We must make sure that all international pressure possible is brought to bear on these organizations, so that they know they will not succeed, they will not prevail, they will be dealt with,” Powell added.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who barely escaped an Israeli assassination attempt just over a week ago, responded by calling Powell a “big liar.”

“This is a statement that reflects and proves that he is a little slave to the Zionists and to his master Sharon, that he is the real enemy of peace and justice in the world,” Rantisi said, according to the AP.

Palestinian militant groups stepped up suicide attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians just after Sharon and Abbas returned from a summit with President George W. Bush in Jordan earlier this month.

The Israeli government has responded with counterattacks targeting individuals it says are terrorist leaders, killing some Palestinian civilians in the process. Twenty-seven Israelis and 40 Palestinians have been killed in the latest clashes, the AP reported.

Powell said both Israeli and Palestinian leaders must continue implementing the internationally backed “road map” to peace in the region. The plan calls for the end of terror attacks on Israelis, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian areas, and the establishment of a Palestinian state as early as 2005.

“The pace and urgency of our work needs to be maintained in order to capitalize quickly and decisively on this moment that history has given to us,” Powell said during his appearance with Sharon.

During the meetings Abbas reportedly called on Israel to do more to dismantle Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas, stop assassination attacks against militant leaders and allow more freedom of movement for Palestinians.

Sharon said the Palestinian Authority has not done enough to crack down on terrorist attacks.

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