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Syria, Lebanon urged to play role in peace

Powell: 'We want to see a Palestinian state created'

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: "It is time ... for the Lebanese army to deploy to the border and end the armed Hezbollah militia presence."

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BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Syria and Lebanon on Saturday to do their parts to ensure success in the Mideast peace process.

Both countries have faced criticism from Washington -- Lebanon for supporting the Hezbollah militant group, and Syria for allegedly harboring figures from Saddam Hussein's ousted Iraqi regime and developing chemical weapons.

Powell stressed the United States' "firm commitment" to Mideast peace, and said Lebanon and Syria each had roles to play in ensuring the so-called road map to peace document is a success.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Lebanese Foreign Minister Jean Obeid, Powell said attacks by Lebanon-based Hezbollah against targets in northern Israel must be stopped. Hezbollah's stated objective is to drive "occupying" forces out of Lebanon and is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States.

"We have emphasized strongly about the continuing terrorist activities of Hezbollah in the region and around the world," Powell said.

"We have emphasized as well the importance of maintaining calm along the southern border of Lebanon," he said, referring to its border with Israel. "It is time, we believe, for the Lebanese army to deploy to the border and end the armed Hezbollah militia presence."

As Obeid nodded, Powell added: "The minister of Lebanon has a role in all of this, and I look forward to working with you and your colleagues in the months ahead."

The road map for Middle East peace, developed by the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, "places obligations and responsibilities on all of the parties," Powell said. "We must see the end of terror and the end of violence."

Powell traveled to Lebanon after visiting Spain, Albania and Syria, drumming up support for the road map, a blueprint for negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at ending the conflicts that began in September 2000.

Powell said he and Syrian President Bashar Assad discussed the importance of capturing any Iraqi leaders trying to slip into Syria.

Before his arrival in Damascus on Friday, Powell told reporters that he has not forgotten his visit to the region two years ago, when Assad assured him that Syria was not receiving oil from Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions -- a claim that turned out to be false.

After the news conference in Beirut, Powell left for the United States but is to return to the region next week to begin work on the road map.

He will be holding his first talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, known informally as Abu Mazen, since the road map was published.

"Our commitment is firm, is unmistakable. We want to see a Palestinian state created," Powell said Saturday. "We've got to get going."

The executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization accepted the road map Saturday night "as presented" by Abbas, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

Assad said he would consider the point of view that Powell presented on every topic the two discussed, Powell said.

The pressure Washington has placed on Syria in recent weeks has led some to fear it could be the next target for regime change.

But Powell emphasized that there is no "laundry list" of countries that the United States plans to wage war against.

"[Defense] Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld said the other day in one of his press conferences that such a suggestion that there was a list with nations on it that we were getting ready to attack was a mischaracterization," he said Friday.

"I am here to pursue diplomacy and mutual political efforts," Powell said. "The issue of war or hostilities is not on the table."

Powell said that in his "candid" discussions with Assad, he said the Mideast peace concerns of Syria and Lebanon will be addressed separately from the road map.

Included in that discussion will be Syria's demand that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights, captured in 1967 during the Six-Day War.


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