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Powell to visit Europe, Africa on healing mission

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- With just a few weeks left in office, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is planning visits to three European countries this week in hopes of healing divisions stemming from the Iraq war and stressing a renewed US commitment to multilateral solutions to global hot spots.

Powell will attend a meeting here today of the 55-nation Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, which played a key role in monitoring the fraud-ridden Ukraine election last month and agreed yesterday to return to Ukraine for a revote on Dec. 26.

The OSCE may have as many as 1,000 monitors for that vote, twice the number of the previous round, officials said.

The United States and Europe have worked effectively to bring about a credible democratic process in Ukraine, a point Powell is certain to make during his visit.

Later in the week, Powell plans to attend a NATO meeting in Brussels, followed by a European Union meeting in the Netherlands. He then goes to Morocco to hold discussions with Arab and other officials on promoting social and economic reform in the Arab world.

As a lame duck, Powell's words will carry less weight this week than they have during his many trips abroad over the past four years. Still, he will be able to give the broad outlines of President Bush's second-term aspirations. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice is expected to replace him in January once she receives Senate confirmation.

Powell said last month that he saw this week's trip as part of a broader effort to get US-European relations on sounder footing after the bitter disagreements during the Iraq war.

It is highly unlikely, however, that the United States and all NATO allies will view the Iraq situation the same way. Much to the disappointment of the Bush administration, at least 10 allies are not taking part in NATO training of Iraqi forces -- a task seen as indispensable for achieving the goal of Iraqi self-sufficiency in providing internal security.

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