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U.S. to release "road map" to Middle East peace

WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday night that President Bush will soon present his "roadmap to peace" between Israelis and Palestinians that would require "hard choices and sacrifices from both peoples."

"The president's vision requires an end to the use of violence as a political tool ... There is no other way," Powell told an estimated 3,800 American Jews at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the principal Jewish-American lobby.

Powell, who was greeted with a standing ovation, also drew a sprinkling of boos when he warned that Israel would have to make sacrifices as well, including ending construction of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Bush envisions that area as part of an independent Palestinian state, Powell said. The roadmap the administration plans to present envisions such a state by 2005. The diplomatic roadmap was drafted in partnership by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

"Israel has to take steps to end the suffering of Palestinians ... and it must end their daily humiliation," he said. "Settlement activity is simply inconsistent with the president's two-state solution. Settlement activity must end."

The roadmap lays out three phases toward creating a Palestinian state in 2005. In the first, Palestinians would end violence, resume security cooperation with Israel and undertake reforms, including some that are already under way. Second, Israel would withdraw its troops to positions they held when the Palestinian revolt began in September 2002 and, third, freeze settlement activity.

The secretary of state said the roadmap to peace will be presented as soon as Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is sworn in as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

Powell noted that with that step, the Palestinians will have begun to fulfill a condition that Bush had set in demanding reform of the Palestinian Authority—that it bow, at least in theory, to demands that Yasir Arafat relinquish his monopoly on political power.

Powell will ask new Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to help bolster Abbas' political position, reports from Israel said Sunday. Powell and Shalom meet Monday in Washington.

The help to Abbas could involve Israel removing roadblocks that hinder Palestinians' movement and improving conditions in Palestinian areas, where basic living conditions have declined markedly.

The United States will mount a forceful diplomatic campaign to implement the plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians even while war rages in Iraq, according to top State Department officials.

Analysts say the war in Iraq has put additional pressure on Bush to make progress on the Israel-Palestinian front, as Arabs accuse the United States of bias toward Israel and of double standards in its foreign policy.

While reassuring American Jews that the administration is committed to Israel's security, Powell stressed that "Israelis and Palestinians must walk the road of peace together if either is to arrive at the desired destination."

Powell noted that President Bush has sent to Congress two proposals to help Israel, including one for $1 billion in military financing and $9 billion in loan guarantees.

Upon the conclusion of his remarks, Powell was given a second standing ovation.

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(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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