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U.S. secretary of state praises war effort

Powell links stability in Israel with Middle East peace

Secretary of State Colin Powell: 'I have total confidence in the [war] plan.'
Secretary of State Colin Powell: 'I have total confidence in the [war] plan.'

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In spite of critics who say the war in Iraq has taken too long, the U.S.-led coalition is meeting its goals in good time, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday in a speech to the 44th annual American Israel Policy Conference.

"We are only 10 or 11 days into this war," Powell said. "Baghdad is slowly being encircled. Pockets of resistance are being isolated. The oil fields are secure. Humanitarian aid is beginning to flow. I have total confidence in the plan and total confidence in General [Tommy] Franks and the other leaders who are carrying out that plan."

Besides driving Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, coalition forces want to help the Iraqi people "create a country that is peaceful, democratic, unified, [and] living in peace with its neighbors," Powell said.

"And let there be no doubt about the outcome: We will drive Saddam Hussein and his regime from power," he said. "We will liberate Iraq. We will remove the shadow of Saddam from Israel and the Middle East."

Powell said stabilizing Israel is an important part of the Middle East peace equation.

President Bush has added to his budget proposal $9 billion in loan guarantees and $1 billion in foreign military financing to help Israel strengthen its civil and military defenses, Powell said.

He said the supplemental budget request going to Congress would help Israel deal with the economic cost arising from the conflict and make economic and budgetary reforms.

"Israelis should not just cope, should not just survive; they should thrive, and with our help they will," he said.

Powell associated stability in Israel with peace in the Middle East.

"That is why the United States is working to bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," he said.

He said the president's vision puts obligations on the Palestinians to end terror and on Israel to ease the suffering of Palestinians.

Quoting Bush, Powell said, "As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end."

Powell also had strong words for Syria and Iran, both of which have been critical of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. He said both nations must do more to fight terrorism.

"Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups in the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears responsibility for its choices and for the consequences," Powell said.

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