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Annan and Powell discusses world's hot spots

Annan discusses world's hot spots with US Secretary of State Powell

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed a wide range of international issues with United States Secretary of State Colin Powell today, touching on the Middle East, Iraq, UN operations in Congo and Liberia, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

"We had a very fruitful discussion, we covered lots of ground," Mr. Annan told reporters after a working lunch at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

On the Middle East, on which he had already issued a statement condemning the latest Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem and describing Israeli attacks in Gaza as only contributing to a renewed cycle of violence, Mr. Annan said: "I think it is important that the leaders stay the course.

"The only path to peace is the Road Map, the promise of Aqaba," he added in a reference to the Jordanian port where US President George W. Bush held a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas last week to launch the Road Map plan for an Israeli and a Palestinian state living side by side in peace by 2005.

"We all were very hopeful after the meetings of Aqaba and the statements the leaders made with the strong support of the President, we thought finally we were going to move forward, and I hope the leaders will not be deterred by these violent acts," Mr. Annan added.

Asked about a reported smear campaign against Hans Blix, head of the UN inspection team that had looked for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Mr. Annan said: "Blix is a very professional person, a very honest person. He did a very good job and he had universal respect for his professionalism and his efforts."

The Secretary-General said he could not really get into the smear campaign "except to say that I have seen some articles in the press that I consider unfair, given the work that he has done."

Mr. Powell said he had high regard for Mr. Blix and Mr. Bush also had confidence in him.

Before lunching with Mr. Powell, Mr. Annan met with US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

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