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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Colin Powell Meets with Israeli, Palestinian Leaders

Aired June 20, 2003 - 19:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.
Despite tensions caused by continuing violence in the Middle East, the Bush administration continues efforts to promote its road map to peace. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders today.

For the latest let's go to Wolf Blitzer, who joins us from Jerusalem.

Wolf, good evening.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Anderson.

It was a day of intense diplomacy in both Jerusalem and Jericho, and for people in this part of the world, the stakes couldn't be any higher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Unfortunately for Secretary of State Colin Powell, he found himself in yet another familiar predicament, his latest effort to promote peace a disappointment. Not much headway, at least not in public.

He and his aides had been hoping to get word from Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups would accept a cease-fire in the terror attacks against Israel. The best Abbas could offer Powell publicly following their talks in the West Bank town of Jericho was a promise to keep trying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am confident, highly confident that we will reach an agreement with all these organizations.

BLITZER: Earlier, following a separate round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem, the secretary of state lashed out at Hamas.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The enemy of peace has been Hamas, especially over the last two weeks.

BLITZER: To that, Abdel Aziz Rantissi, the Hamas leader who was nearly assassinated by the Israelis in Gaza earlier this month, lashed right back at Powell.

ABDEL AZIZ RANTISSI, HAMAS LEADER: He is totally with the Israelis against Palestinian rights. He is an enemy to Palestinians.

BLITZER: While the war of words was playing out, yet another deadly incident.

An Israeli motorist driving through the West Bank was shot and killed. Three other passengers wounded, two seriously. Israeli military sources blamed Palestinian gunmen.

It is precisely these kinds of attacks that strengthen Prime Minister Sharon's refusal to abandon his policy of targeting suspected terrorists for assassination, despite urgings from Washington.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We have to make sure there are no independent terror organizations on the ground. The terror organizations must be fought.

BLITZER: Despite the disappointment, top Bush administration officials promised to keep on pushing.

To underline President Bush's commitment to advance his road map, hailed by all sides only two weeks ago at the Aqaba summit, he's dispatching his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice to the region next week in an effort to pick up where Powell left off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: At a minimum, all this high level U.S. diplomatic hand holding is designed to keep the situation from get anything worse. But by all accounts, given what's going on right now, the situation easily could get much worse -- Anderson.

COOPER: Certainly could, Wolf Blitzer thanks very much for that.

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