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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In U.S., Ivanov Mulls Mideast Action Plan

NEW YORK -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met Tuesday with Russian, Arab, European and UN leaders seeking approval of an "action plan" to assist the Palestinian people over the next three years.

Fifteen officials from four delegations sat around an oval table in a midtown hotel looking for ways to ease Palestinian frustration, which again boiled over on the West Bank with a roadside bombing in the West Bank after nearly a month of relative quiet.

Seven people were killed and more than a dozen were injured in the attack.

Only 2 1/2 hours was scheduled for the meeting with the ministers planning a news conference afterward to announce the results.

They are in basic agreement for wanting to make life easier for the Palestinians but the U.S. government wants to see violence curbed before trying to reopen peace talks to establish a Palestinian state and to force Israel to leave the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the latest violence, Palestinians wearing Israeli army uniforms detonated the bomb as an armored bus passed by and then shot at civilians as they fled, authorities and witnesses said.

It was the first deadly attack on Israeli civilians since June 20.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said: "The president condemns the latest act of violence in the Middle East. This underscores the importance of focusing on peace and working with leaders in the Palestinian Authority who are dedicated to peace."

Fleischer also said that since President George W. Bush's June speech calling for new leadership in the Palestinian Authority "there have been some interesting rumblings from within the Palestinian Authority about the direction they would like to go in the future."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "appalled" by the indiscriminate attack "which cannot be justified by any political or other objective," a UN statement said. Annan is taking part in talks with top officials of the United States, the European Union and Russia and later with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia's UN ambassador. So is Powell.

The plan Powell was presenting would set up a schedule for direct assistance to finance humanitarian and economic programs on the West Bank and Gaza, where an already difficult existence has eroded under the strain of Israeli retaliation to terror attacks.

Powell was meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, European Union diplomat Javier Solana and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He then planned to meet separately with Foreign Ministers Ahmed Maher of Egypt and Marwan Muasher of Jordan.

Afterward, the ministers planned to meet at Annan's East Side residence.

Powell will likely meet on Thursday in Washington with Maher, Muasher and the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal.

On Aug. 1, King Abdullah of Jordan will visit Washington to meet with Bush.

The Bush administration would like to skirt the Palestinian Authority, which it suspects of corruption, and already is channeling about $142 million a year in assistance through the United Nations, the Red Cross and other private groups. In April, on a trip to the region, Powell pledged an additional $30 million in aid.

The Europeans provide $9 million a year in assistance. Unlike U.S. aid, it goes directly to the Palestinian Authority. Powell hopes future European contributions can be made directly to the people or at least in ways that provide controls against skimming.

Approval of the plan is expected, a U.S. official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In preliminary moves, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns has set up an international task force on reform with UN, Russian and European Union officials.

Bush has called for new leadership to replace Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Powell on Monday told ABC-TV's "Nightline" he was more than willing to consider a solution that would create the post of president for Arafat and prime minister for another Palestinian leader.

"It is a formula I'd be more than willing to consider," he said.

However, Ivanov insisted that Arafat's fate would not be discussed at the talks in New York.

The question of Arafat's future "is not on the agenda. It is exclusively a question for the Palestinian people," Ivanov told Russian reporters upon arriving in New York early Tuesday, in remarks shown on NTV television.