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Powell Returns to Tel Aviv After Meeting With Syrian President

Aired April 15, 2002 - 10:49   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, yes, we have a breaking development right now in the Middle East as Secretary of State Colin Powell continues his shuttle diplomacy. Right now he's on a hastily arranged trip to Syria which is where we find our State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel who is traveling with the secretary who just heard some interesting words.

Andrea Koppel, are you there?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I am, Leon.

Actually, we're moving so fast we're back in Tel Aviv right now. I just got off the plane. Secretary Powell came back and spoke to reporters following his meetings in Damascus with Syria's President Assad and said I'm sure you're aware of all the talk that's been out there about the possibility of the United States or some other country hosting an international conference on the Middle East to try to bring about some kind of a cease-fire. And Secretary Powell had with both Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, and with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, about such a conference.

The problem was, until now, the Israelis had said that they didn't want Yasser Arafat to attend. Now Secretary Powell has said that, in fact, there's the possibility that Yasser Arafat would not have to attend, he could appoint someone, one of his senior officials, to attend and it could be held at the minister's level.

This is -- obviously it's in the very early stages, Leon. There's been no decision as to who might host this conference, who would attend the conference. But what we're seeing right now is at least there's -- there appears to be some movement and at least some kind of a solution as to how you can get around Israeli objections to having Yasser Arafat attend. And now if you can get the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down at a fairly high level and talk with one another, to try to bring about some kind of a political solution to the situation that this right in the territories -- Leon.

HARRIS: Andrea, is this -- this is something of a change, is it not, in the stance that Secretary Powell and the U.S. has taken up until this point on the matter? Is it -- I think I just read this morning a quote from an administration source who was saying that that was a nonstarter, the idea of Arafat's I guess being left out of these meetings. Is this a change now or do we -- is that how we interpret this?

Well apparently we've lost Andrea Koppel's phone line. Are you there, Andrea? No, apparently we did lose Andrea's phone line there. We'll try to get back to her later on on that, perhaps a significant development there.

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