Powell, Jordanian Minister Discuss Iraq, Middle East Peace Process
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 28, 2003 The way forward in Iraq and in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were the two main topics of discussion today in a meeting between Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Jordanian counterpart.
"For the most part, the serious hostilities are over (in Iraq)," Powell said at a press conference following his meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Jamil Al-Muasher at the State Department. Though U.S. forces are still "cleaning up pockets of resistance," attention has turned to dealing with humanitarian needs.
The secretary noted food is not a problem in Iraq, and American and Iraqi engineers are working to restore the electrical grid and clean running water.
Muasher said the two men discussed the need to start a political process in Iraq "that would lead to the formation of a credible and representative Iraqi government so we can get on with the process of rebuilding Iraq and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq."
Regarding the Middle East, Powell said he "reaffirmed" President Bush's commitment to release the administration's roadmap to peace in the region. Bush is waiting for the Palestinian Authority' confirmation of Prime Minister Abu Mazen, which could occur as early as this week.
"Both the minister and I expressed our hopes that both parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, will grab this new opportunity to achieve progress along the path to peace through the use of this roadmap," Powell said. Bush's roadmap is purported to contain a step- by-step plan to achieve an independent Palestinian state within three years.
Muasher said he is "encouraged" by what Powell told him of Bush's commitment to release the plan. "I believe that the time has come in the Middle East to truly look at all the problems of the Middle East in a way that would end all conflicts there," he said.
At a reporter's question, Powell also spoke briefly of the political situation inside Cuba. "We are reviewing all of our policies and our approach toward Cuba in light of what I think is a deteriorating human rights situation within Cuba," he said.
According to published reports, Cuba has rounded up 75 dissidents within the past month. Powell today said these people have received "long terms of imprisonment" up to 20 years "for speaking out and trying to exercise basic human rights."
The secretary called Fidel Castro's dictatorship "an aberration" in the Western Hemisphere.
"When you look at how all other nations in our hemisphere, except for Cuba, are trying to find the way forward with democracy and free enterprise system and individual rights and liberty, and Castro continues to do nothing but oppress, suppress his people, suppress opinion," he said.