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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 15:49 GMT
Mid-East awaits next US move
US Secretary of State Colin Powell giving a speech in Kentucky
Powell called for an end to violence and a return to talks
Roger Hardy

There has been mixed reaction in the Middle East to the speech by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, which called for an end to violence in the region and a return to negotiations.

Mr Powell made the speech on Monday at a university in Kentucky.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Analysts say Sharon is playing for time
In their official reactions, Israel and the Palestinians have welcomed the speech. But everyone is waiting to see what the Americans will do next.

Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, has called the speech positive and balanced.

An Israeli commentator, on the other hand, said it was "warmed-up pasta".

Arab disappointment

Broadly speaking, the Arabs are disappointed that Mr Powell's speech did not go further - and the Israelis are relieved that it didn't.

The Palestinians had hoped for a specific timetable to show how long it would take to get from the immediate goal - an end to violence - to the longer-term goal of an end to the Israeli occupation.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Israel wants all the pressure to focus on Arafat
But Israeli analysts think Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, is playing for time.

He wants all the American pressure to focus on Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, ending the violence, rather than on him ending the occupation.

This is one reason why Mr Powell's two senior envoys, Anthony Zinni and William Burns, who are expected to arrive in the region in a few days' time, have such a tough task.

Mr Sharon is sticking to his view that there must be seven days of complete calm before other matters can be addressed - such as an Israeli settlement freeze and a return to peace talks.

Most Western diplomats regard that demand as unrealistic.

A crucial test of Mr Sharon's intentions - and of American even-handedness - will be when he makes a delayed visit to see President George Bush in Washington in two weeks.


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20 Nov 01 | Middle East
20 Nov 01 | Americas
19 Nov 01 | Middle East
17 Nov 01 | Middle East
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