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Hold peace plan until Israeli election, Powell says


WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, rejecting another urgent appeal from European leaders, said yesterday that a negotiated "roadmap" to create a Palestinian state could not be adopted this week as they wanted but would have to wait until after Israeli elections early next year.

"Because of the issues that are before the Israeli public right now," Powell said, "we think it would be wiser for us to continue to work on the roadmap and to wait until after the election is over."

Powell's cautionary comments were the first time anyone in the administration had acknowledged officially that it was acceding to a request by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to delay completion of the "roadmap" proposal, actually a seven-page document being drafted by the United States, the Europeans, Russia and the United Nations.

The secretary spoke after a session with envoys from the European Union, which voted a week ago to expand its membership and deepen its involvement in defense issues.

The EU also voted to press Washington for adoption and publication of the peace plan this week.

At a news conference with three EU representatives, Powell emphasized that there were many areas of agreement between Europe and the United States.

But the difference of views on the Middle East peace negotiations was not the only sign of disagreement across the Atlantic. The principal envoy of the European Union, Per Stig Moeller, the Danish foreign minister, struck a distinctly different note on Iraq as well.

Moeller said it was "very important that further decisions are made through the Security Council" on whether Iraq has violated a Security Council resolution on inspections and disarmament.

By contrast, the Bush administration asserts that while the Security Council should consider the issue, the United States may decide on its own whether there is a violation - and whether it would justify a war.

Yet another difference of views was apparent on Iran, which recent satellite photographs indicate might be accelerating its nuclear weapons program.

The United States has expressed concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and has called on allies to avoid doing business with the government in Tehran. Europeans, on the other hand, say that conducting business with the West could give Iran an incentive to change its behavior.

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