Sat, Dec 06, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Bush and Jordan's king confer on Palestinian plan


President George W. Bush and King Abdullah of Jordan discus-sed a Palestinian proposal on Thursday in which Israel would refrain from killing terrorist suspects and stop construction of its barrier in the West Bank in return for a cease-fire by militants, Arab diplomats said.

In a second phase, the Arab diplomats said, the Palestinian Authority would take more concrete steps to disarm Hamas and other militant groups, once Israeli restraint was established. In addition, the Palestinian leadership would pledge that, this time, the cease-fire would last.

Administration officials said they could not comment on the specifics of the meeting between Bush and the king.

These officials added, however, that they viewed the recent talk from the Palestinian side -- aimed at re-establishing a cease-fire similar to the one that collapsed in August -- with considerable skepticism.

"A cease-fire is not a renunciation of violence," said an administration official. "By definition, it's just a pause, leaving terrorist capabilities in place, and letting them continue their planning for more attacks when the cease-fire ends."

Seeking to re-energize the stalled talks, King Abdullah took time out from a private visit to the US to bring details of the latest proposal from the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, the Arab diplomats said.

The proposal is also being discussed among Arab leaders and leaders of various Palestinian factions in Cairo, Egypt.

Siding with Israel, administration officials said that any peace plan must be accompanied by concrete actions by Palestinian authorities to disarm militants, dismantle weapons and rocket launchers and move against the infrastructure of the militant groups.

As the discussions proceeded, Bush confirmed something that had been in the air for days -- that despite Israeli objections, Secretary of State Colin Powell was to meet yesterday with self-appointed Palestinian and Israeli negotiators who have worked out an unofficial peace agreement announced in Geneva this week.

The agreement -- put together over the last 2-and-a-half years by teams led by Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli justice minister, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former information minister for the Palestinian Authority -- calls for a nonmilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza in return for peace.

Palestinians would be granted sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and over the Temple Mount, with access by Jews. Israelis would keep most of their settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and his Cabinet have made no secret of their antipathy to the document and the process that led to it.

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