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Powell: Israel 'too aggressive' in Hamas attack

Colin Powell
Powell says there was no inconsistency in the way the administration responded to the attack.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday an attack by Israel that killed eight people, including a Hamas leader and two young brothers, was "too aggressive." He also denied any inconsistency in the U.S. response to the Tuesday helicopter strike.

"We felt that this was a targeted killing of the kind that we have spoken out and condemned in the past, and we did so yesterday, both at the White House and in the State Department," Powell told CNN's Judy Woodruff during an interview for "Inside Politics."

"We had a consistent view of it, that this kind of response is too aggressive and it just serves to increase the level of tension and violence in the region."

Powell's reference to consistency was an allusion to a Washington Post story Wednesday that noted differences in the way the administration responded to the attack.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell talks with CNN's Judy Woodruff (Part 1) (August 1)

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The State Department "strongly deplored" the attack as a "new and dangerous" escalation of the violence. The White House urged both sides to abide by a U.S.-brokered cease-fire agreement made in June.

Powell said the responses did not reflect any inconsistencies.

"The guidance that was used at the State Department was clear guidance, and it reflected the White House view and the State Department view," he said. "So even though people may have found something to find that there's a difference, the statement put out by the State Department reflected White House concurrence."

Israel said the attack on the Hamas office in Nablus was part of its policy of "active self-defense," which means strikes against those whom Israel thinks are planning terrorist attacks.

Powell said such "targeted killing" does not help the situation in the Mideast. He called on both sides to "bring the passion down, the incitement down and to bring the violence levels down."

In other matters, Powell reiterated the United States is committed to the Dayton peace accord and would not pull its troops out of Bosnia and Kosovo until the missions are complete. But, he said, it is trying to change the role of U.S. troops.

"What the president has said, and what he told the Europeans, is we went into together and we will come out together," he said.

"That doesn't mean that we can't reduce the size of our forces there, and reduce our footprint, it doesn't mean we shouldn't aggressively transfer a lot of the things we are doing to other kind of agencies, police agencies, civilian agencies."

Powell, who recently returned from a trip to China, said U.S.-China relations are complex and should be approached very carefully from all aspects, including trade and human rights.

Powell said he believes President Bush's upcoming fall trip to China will be a success.

"It doesn't have to be characterized as, We're going to see an enemy or we're going to see this, we're going to see that," said Powell. "We're going to talk to another powerful nation on arranged agenda items where we have an opportunity to cooperate and where we have an opportunity to disagree."

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