Collin Powell tries to move the peace process forward, but in vain

Secretary of State &to=http://' target=_blank> Colin Powell said yesterday that he won Israel's agreement to permit freedom of movement for Palestinians when they hold elections for a successor to Yasser Arafat in January.

Powell, in his final trip to a region where his efforts to move the peace process forward were repeatedly frustrated, said he was pleased with the renewed "level of coordination and cooperation" between Israelis and Palestinians in recent days.

"The Israeli authorities said to me ... they will do everything that they can to permit freedom of movement and access for candidates as well as for voters on election day, and both sides seem confident that they'll be able to work out a solution," Powell told reporters during a stop in the West Bank city of Jericho to visit a voter registration station.

Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet soon to discuss the specifics of Palestinian needs to facilitate the election of a Palestinian Authority president on Jan. 9, Israeli Prime Minister &to=http://' target=_blank>Ariel Sharon told a parliamentary security committee yesterday. U.S. officials have said they hope the vote will be a turning point for the stalled peace process known as the &to=http://' target=_blank> road map, informs the Kentucky.

According to the Washington Post, The most important decision about who will run for president of the Palestinian Authority was made Monday by the Fatah movement's 15-member Central Committee, which nominated former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas as the group's presidential candidate for the Jan. 9 election.

The choice by the 13 committee members who voted -- almost all in their sixties and seventies, and all elected to their posts 15 years ago -- was unanimous. It was also an emphatic decision by the old guard of Fatah, the political organization founded by &to=http://' target=_blank> Yasser Arafat more than 40 years ago, not to turn over the leadership to a younger generation agitating for power. Abbas, 69, who was recently elected to replace Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is also the second-ranking official in Fatah and a Central Committee member.

World leaders meeting in Egypt focused on Israel, the Palestinians and what is seen as a chance to jump start the stalled peace process today, with plans to shift the focus to another Mideast hotspot – Iraq – later in the day.

The Quartet of sponsors of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan took the opportunity of an international conference on Iraq for an informal breakfast meeting on their plan, known as the road map. US Secretary of State Colin Powell went into the breakfast a day after talks in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Powell, who is on one of his last trips as secretary of state, assured Israeli and Palestinian leaders that newly re-elected US President George Bush is intent on moving "forward on the path of peace, to take advantage of the new opportunities that are before us." The November 11 death Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has changed the landscape.

Israel and the US had refused to talk to Arafat, branding him an unacceptable negotiating partner because of what they said was his support of terror. The Palestinians are preparing for a January 9 vote to choose Arafat’s replacement.

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