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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Powell's peace mission begins
Palestinians pass a graffiti Star of David in the West Bank town of Bethlehem
Powell is hoping to secure truce in the Mid-East
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By Jon Leyne
BBC State Department correspondent

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has arrived in Morocco on the first leg of a Middle East tour designed to secure a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell is to reassure Arab allies of American commitment to peace

Mr Powell is due to hold talks with King Mohammed VI, and with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who is currently at his winter residence in the country.

Mr Powell's trip comes as Israel continues to resist US pressure to withdraw from the Palestinian areas it has occupied.

Mr Powell's first priority is to secure that withdrawal.

New initiative

At the same time, he is also maintaining pressure on Yasser Arafat to rein in Palestinian violence.

Whether or not there is a meeting between the US secretary of state and the Palestinian leader depends on what happens between now and Mr Powell's arrival in Israel on Thursday or Friday.

In the meantime, Mr Powell will be speaking with America's moderate Arab allies, beginning in Morocco.

He wants to reassure them of America's commitment to Middle East peace and to recruit their help in restraining the Palestinians.

It was the threat of further regional turmoil that was a crucial factor leading to this new initiative.

See also:

08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Sharon unmoved by US pressure
07 Apr 02 | Middle East
Tensions rise on Lebanon border
07 Apr 02 | Middle East
Pope calls for Mid-East peace
07 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair faces revolt over Iraq
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