As other G-8 members push for an international solution to tensions in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed Wednesday the Bush administration is thinking about creating an interim Palestinian state, possibly with Yasser Arafat at its head.
"There are those who believe that unless you have a political horizon put in place that people can see, it will be hard for the Arabs or Palestinians to move forward with the kinds of reforms required to improve security and to bring greater accountability to the Palestinian leadership," he said, before G-8 foreign ministers' meetings at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
"Along with that line of thinking," Powell said, "is the proposition that before you can get to that end state, you may need a provisional arrangement."
Powell told an Arabic-language newspaper: "We are not in line with his (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) position that we should not work with chairman Arafat."
He said Palestinians need "something they can put their hopes in, their dreams in, something the international community can invest in with some confidence." Powell pulled back slightly later, saying the interim state is one idea being tossed around by the U.S.
Ari Fleischer, spokesman for U.S. President George W. Bush, suggested to reporters in Washington that Powell was echoing thoughts of other leaders, thus intensifying international confusion about U.S. policy on the Mideast.
Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have publicly expressed doubt about continuing to work with Arafat.
"Welcome to the Middle East," Fleischer said. "This is a situation where people get a variety of information . . . if the president has anything further to indicate, he will."
After travelling the twisting road from Vancouver airport to the ski village Wednesday morning, Powell met counterparts from Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Briefing reporters before dinner, Powell said: "This is not news" and added, there "is no distance" between himself and the administration on the Middle East.
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