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Powell meets Israeli, Palestinian leaders

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Powell meets Israeli, Palestinian leaders

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Palestinians from east Jerusalem will be able to take part in January’s presidential election – that is the word from Israel after talks with the US. It is a key step in a series of measures that Israel could take to facilitate the vote. The outgoing US secretary of state, Colin Powell, was dispatched to make a renewed diplomatic push following the death of Yasser Arafat, branded by Washington as an obstacle to peace.

Later Powell met Palestinian leaders in Jericho. They have called on Israel to pull troops back from urban areas in the West Bank a month before the poll. Israel has so far said it would coordinate with the Palestinian Authority. Powell has been exerting pressure on moderates such as PLO chief Mahmud Abbas – tipped as Arafat’s successor – to rein in militant groups in the run-up to the election. Without that, the chances of securing full Israeli cooperation are slim.