3/30/03 8:42 PM Inches: 13.3 REGULAR BC-Powell-MiddleEast 2ndLd-Writethru 03-30 0561

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EDs: SUBS last two grafs to DELETE extraenous matter and clarify


AP Diplomatic Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, ranging beyond the ongoing war with Iraq, demanded on Sunday that Iran halt its quest for weapons of mass destruction and that Syria cease supporting terrorism.

He also called on Israel and Palestinian leaders to take serious steps toward a peace agreement.

In a strong speech to a pro-Israel lobby group, Powell also reaffirmed the Bush administration's determination to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"We will keep his weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East," Powell said to strong applause from thousands of American Jews attending an evening session opening the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's 44th annual policy conference.

"Let there be no doubt of the outcome," he said. "We will drive Saddam Hussein and his regime from power."

And he vowed a relentless effort to attack the al-Qaida terror network around the world: "Let there be no doubt. We will pursue al-Qaida wherever they are."

Turning to Iran -- which President Bush has denounced as a member of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea -- Powell said it must stop its support of terrorism against Israel and "Iran must stop its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the ability to produce them."

Following up on an accusation last week by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld that Syria is allowing war material to flow into Iraq, Powell said "Syria faces a critical choice" -- whether to "continue its direct support for terrorism in the dying days" of the Iraqi government.

Rumsfeld has called Syria's actions "hostile" and Powell kept up the pressure with a warning that "Syria bears a responsibility for its choices and consequences."

On the Israeli-Palestinian front, Powell renewed Bush's support for a Palestinian state and said, "Israel's security requires peace with its neighbors."

Powell also renewed Bush's call for a halt to settlement activity on the West Bank and Gaza, which drew a mixed response of mild applause and a few boos.

Without mentioning the Palestinians specifically, Powell got a standing ovation when he declared there must be "an end of violence as a political tool" against Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom followed Powell's speech with his own condemnation of Iran as a sponsor of terrorism. He said Iran was behind the attacks in 1992 on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 on a Jewish center in capital of Argentina.

"We will work closely with the United States to oppose terror," the minister said.

On the conflict with the Palestinians, Shalom was cautious. "We need a true Palestinian partner, one who will stop the violence once and for all," he said.

Only hours earlier, an Islamic militant blew himself up in a crowded pedestrian mall in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya. The militant group Islamic Jihad said the bombing was a show of support for Iraq.

Shalom said Mahmoud Abbas, the newly appointed Palestinian prime minister, will find Israel to be a "true partner" for peace if he "really fights terror."


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