Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Powell Urges Israel to Lift 'Siege' Constraints Breed Violence, He Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Powell Urges Israel to Lift 'Siege' Constraints Breed Violence, He Says

Article excerpt

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Endorsing a Palestinian demand, Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Israel yesterday to lift an economic "siege" of the West Bank and Gaza as soon as possible.

The constraints, which include a ban on Palestinian workers going to their jobs in Israel and the withholding of tax revenues, do nothing to improve the security situation, Powell said after a two-hour meeting with Yasser Arafat at his headquarters.

"If people are not able to get to their jobs, they become more frustrated," Powell said later as he flew to Kuwait from Jordan. "Frustration leads to anger and then anger to violence."

Israel, in an effort to stem attacks on its soldiers and civilians, is using economic pressure as well as firepower. Peace talks have been shelved, and Powell said it will be a long time before they resume.

"We discussed how it is necessary for all sides to move away from violence and incitement and how it is necessary to lift the siege as soon as possible so that economic activity can begin again in the region," Powell said of his meeting with Arafat.

Before seeing Arafat, Powell met Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem but evidently was unable to persuade Israel's incoming prime minister to ease that pressure. Still, Powell said the Bush administration's commitment to Israeli security was "rock-hard."

Powell said he was disturbed by an outline of Israel's security problems that he received Saturday from Israel's military chief, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz.

"This is the time to bring calm to the region," Powell said at a news conference with Sharon. "It is a very dangerous situation."

Before landing in Kuwait, where he participated in a 10th anniversary celebration of Kuwait's liberation from Iraq, Powell said Israelis and Palestinians are in touch with each other on security issues. "Whether that will bear fruit, I don't know."

On peacemaking, he described Sharon and Arafat as leaders looking down a long hallway, with a settlement at the end. "They have the keys," Powell said.

But, he said, "it's going to take some time before they get back to negotiations."

In Ramallah, Powell blamed both sides for the violence that has plagued the region for five months, and promised that President Bush would play a leadership role in peacemaking once the outbreak subsides. …

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