Bucharest, Romania Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced qualified support on Tuesday for Israeli retaliation for terror attacks and said Yasser Arafat must do more to control Palestinian terrorist groups.
But he also cautioned against a further escalation of the violence, saying every attack and counter-attack makes peace harder to achieve.
Powell met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the sidelines of a 55-nation European anti-terrorism conference and told him the United States would remain engaged in the Middle East despite the escalation of violence that has dimmed peace hopes.
He told reporters that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in ordering counter-strikes, "is responding in a way that he believes is appropriate to defend his people and to defend his country."
Powell said he did not think that Israel was specifically targeting Arafat, even though three Israeli missiles hit 50 yards from Arafat's office on Tuesday as the Palestinian leader was at work.
Peres separately told reporters that the Palestinian leader himself was not a target.
Israeli strikes were "more of a warning than a punishment," Peres said. "We don't intend to bring down the Palestinian Authority."
At the meeting with Peres, Powell told the Israeli that U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni will stay in the area, a senior administration official said afterward.
Powell also emphasized that while the United States believes Israel has a right to defend itself, it should consider only what is necessary to prevent tensions from further escalating, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Discussions of the terrorist attacks in Israel came as the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe pledged to take a united front against terrorism.
The organization passed a resolution asserting that its members "will not yield to terrorist threats, but will combat them by all means."
It was Powell's first stop on an eight-day, 10-nation trip to Europe and Central Asia.
After Romania, Powell flew to Ankara, Turkey, where he plans to meet today with Turkish officials. U.S. officials said the subject is Iraq, which many hard-liners in the Bush administration consider the possible next target in the war on terrorism.
But Powell said he had no specific agenda regarding Iraq, and suggested more talk would revolve around Turkey's contribution to the anti-terrorism campaign.
Turkey, like many other U.S. allies, has pledged troops for the Afghan campaign either for combat now or for peacekeeping later.
Powell's trip, which will take him to several front line Central Asian states later this week and to Moscow over the weekend, is in part an effort to ease concerns of allies that their offers of help were being spurned by U.S. military planners.