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Powell on fresh Mid-East mission
November 22, 2004
US Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Israel for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

His visit comes amid fresh US diplomacy in the region following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

He said he wanted to ensure Palestinian elections went ahead peacefully, calling it a "moment of opportunity".

But there was fresh violence in the West Bank on Sunday when Israeli troops killed three Palestinians after they came under fire, the Israeli army said.

Mr Powell said he would use his talks with both sides to ensure the maximum number of Palestinians are able to vote on 9 January.

"Perhaps the things that we do or that they do will encourage a degree of co-operation that can spread into other areas," he told reporters before landing in Tel Aviv.

This is likely to be Mr Powell's final mission to the Middle East after announcing his resignation last week. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has been named to replace him.

A US envoy, William Burns, met Palestinian leaders on Sunday - the first senior US diplomat to do so for months.

New reality

He reiterated Mr Powell's words, saying the US strongly supported the upcoming election, and urged Israel to do the same.

"We are determined to do everything we can to help in that process and we also support steps by Israel which are needed to facilitate this election," he told reporters.

Both the US and Israel had refused to deal with Arafat for some time.

His death has brought a new reality to the region, says the BBC's Matthew Price in Jerusalem.

There is universal agreement that changes in the Palestinian leadership offer an opportunity for progress in resolving the intractable conflict, he added.

The crucial task will be to pressure both sides to ensure the forthcoming elections are peaceful.


But as Mr Powell flew in, there were reports of clashes in the West Bank town of Beitunia, west of Ramallah.

Israeli troops shot dead three Palestinian men after they came under fire trying to arrest them in their car, the Israeli military said. One Israeli soldier was injured.

A local commander of a militant Palestinian group, the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, was amongst the dead, said Palestinian sources.

Earlier, the Israeli army said an armed Palestinian was killed in the Gaza Strip after he was discovered in a building near the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif.


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