Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will make a rare visit to the Palestinian territories next week, in a show of support for Palestinian elections set for January.
U.S. officials say Mr. Powell will visit the West Bank city of Ramallah and Israel as part of a trip that also has him attending a conference on Iraq in Egypt (November 21 to 23).
U.S. confirmation of the West Bank visit came today, Tuesday, as interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met in Gaza with Palestinian militant groups and asked them to halt attacks on Israel in advance of the January 9 vote to replace Yasser Arafat.
The Associated Press says the militant group Hamas rejected Mr. Abbas's call.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group both reject the presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.