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Powell: 'Mideast mission still on'

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Ivanov and Powell before their meeting in Madrid on Thursday  


TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Thursday, in in the final stop of an international trip designed to achieve a cease-fire in the Middle East.

Powell had traveled from Jordan, where he stopped briefly to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Friday. On Saturday, he is slated to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"I go committed to carry forward the president's vision as expressed in his April 4 speech," Powell said before leaving Jordan. "...We look forward not only to find a way that will bring the violence down and the incursion that is currently underway way ... but also ... move agressively with respect to political action."

Powell expressed support for the Mitchell plan, named after for Sen. George Mitchell, as the best way to restore peace in the Middle East.

"There's a political process in Mitchell we believe has to be accelerated and expanded in order to show the Palestinian people that there is hope out there -- hope for them to have their own state, living side-by-side in peace with Israel," he said.

Earlier, in Spain, Powell said his misson was "still on," despite continuing Palestinian violence and Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas.

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"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Sharon and with Chairman Arafat," he said. "In my conversation with Prime Minister Sharon this morning we talked about my meeting with Chairman Arafat and so I am looking forward to these consultations."

"I am going because it is necessary for me to go to represent President Bush and his desire to see this crisis brought to an end and to get us back on a track that will lead to discussions," he said.

Ivanov said: "We are all interested in making this mission a success, so it bears real fruit and opens the way toward the end of the conflict."

Nuclear arms, poultry

The pair also discussed nuclear arms, a row over Russia's ban on U.S. poultry imports and a spy scandal.

But Ivanov made clear there was no agreement yet on the format for each country to cut its stockpiles of nuclear warheads to a range of 1,750 to 2,250 over 10 years each -- or on the disposal of the warheads.

He reaffirmed Moscow's interest in a "legally binding" document and said: "The Russian side stands for making the reductions real, not virtual."

Washington had hoped a ban on U.S. chicken imports would be lifted before Powell met Ivanov but Russia extended it for two more days on Wednesday, saying it needed more time to study evidence Washington said proved its products were safe.

Russia was by far the largest importer of American poultry before it imposed the ban last month. The dispute coincides with Russian anger at U.S. plans to impose tariffs on steel imports, but neither side has publicly linked the two issues.

A spy scandal also erupted in Moscow on the eve of the Powell-Ivanov talks, with Russia's security police accusing the United States of drugging a scientist in a bid to steal military secrets. (Full story)

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said on Thursday Powell's Middle East mission was the only hope for peace.

Top EU, U.N., Russian and U.S. officials, meeting in Madrid on Wednesday, called for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities in the West Bank which Israeli forces have reoccupied. (Full story)



 
 
 
 







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