US confirms Powell visit to Palestine

Outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to visit the West Bank next week to meet the new Palestinian leadership, a Palestinian official said.

    The secretary of state is likely to hold talks with Mahmud Abbas

    A senior State Department official confirmed the trip on Tuesday.

    The talks would be Powell's first in Palestinian territories since May 2003, when he laid the groundwork for a US-backed peace road map that has since been shredded by Israeli-Palestinian violence.

    It may also be his last foreign policy trip as secretary of state. Powell tendered his resignation on Monday and current National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has been nominated by President George Bush to be his successor.

    Powell's visit could add substance to Bush's pledge for a new push towards peace, and his recent pledge for the creation of a Palestinian state.

    "The US secretary of state is coming to the West Bank next week, but the schedule and the agenda are still under discussion," Muhammad al-Wahidi, spokesman for Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, said on Sunday.

    Powell is likely to hold talks with the new Palestinian Liberation Organisation chairman Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya during his visit.

    Bush said last week the death of veteran Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat could open a new chapter in the Middle East peace process.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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