Powell Begins Tour of Coalition Circuit in Europe, Asia
Kralev, Nicholas, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Nicholas Kralev
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell began an eight-day, 10-nation tour of Europe and Central Asia yesterday, but the trip's main theme of rebuilding Afghanistan is likely to be overshadowed by the escalating violence in the Middle East.
"The secretary will be consulting with coalition partners about the war on terrorism. His discussions will encompass the immediate and long-term challenges of rebuilding a post-Taliban Afghanistan," the State Department said.
It said Mr. Powell - whose trip has been in the works for weeks, with new stops being added until late Friday - never considered canceling his plans.
Despite a new security crisis in the Middle East, which over the weekend saw some of the worst bloodshed in years, he is not scheduled to visit the region.
"The secretary will be in regular contact with his team back here and with his team in the field, with the president, as necessary, and with any foreign leaders that he needs to be in touch with," State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.
Israel launched air strikes on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's helicopter compound in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank city of Jenin yesterday in retaliation for a devastating wave of suicide bombings over the weekend, which killed more than a score and wounded more than 200.
The surge of violence threatened to wreck a U.S. peace drive intended to help bolster Arab support for the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan, and raised fears that the Middle East conflict could spiral out of control.
Mr. Powell is expected to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres today in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, at the annual gathering of the 55-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"We expect the participants there to issue a statement addressing a number of issues that OSCE has been involved with, as well as their action plans to combat global terrorism," Mr. …