Mideast Talks May Exclude Arafat

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JERUSALEM?Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday embraced the idea of an international conference aimed at stopping Middle East violence and restarting Israeli Palestinian peace negotiations.

“It’s a way to get the parties together and talking,” Powell said on the ninth day of a peace mission that has made little progress.

Pressing on, Powell will meet Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for a third time and is making arrangements to visit Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for a second time Wednesday in his ruined Ramallah headquarters, said a State Department spokesman.

Sharon suggested the international conference to Powell at their meeting in Tel Aviv on Sunday, though Sharon objected to including Arafat.

Powell said that Arafat could send Palestinian officials to represent him if talks were held at the foreign minister level.