Palestinian premier Abbas wants firm plan from Bush

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United States to press Israel for a firm schedule of peace moves when he meets with President Bush this week, a Palestinian lawmaker said Tuesday.

Abbas "cannot come back empty handed from Washington," said Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat. "It's essential for Bush to send (Abbas) back with a comprehensive implementation plan ... especially timelines and monitors."

Abbas' scheduled White House meeting Friday will be the first in almost three years for a Palestinian leader, and will be followed by Bush's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on July 29.

Violence is down sharply since Palestinian militants declared a unilateral truce on June 29 after 33 months of fighting that killed 2,414 people on the Palestinian side and 806 on the Israeli side.

But progress on implementing the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan is stalled. The plan -- a blueprint for ending violence and establishing a Palestinian state by 2005 -- calls on the sides to carry out their obligations in parallel. But each is saying the other must move first.

Speaking after a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa Tuesday, Abbas said he would use his trip to Washington "to convince (the United States) with our viewpoint in order to pressure Israel and in order to carry out its duty toward the Palestinian issue."

Among Israel's obligations are a dismantling of the roughly 100 illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank. Israel has removed about a dozen -- and a similar number have gone back up. In parliament Monday, Sharon pledged to remove illegal outposts, but opposition legislators said his moves were only for show.

The road map calls on Israel to freeze all construction in the 150 veteran Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza -- and this, too, has not been done.

It also says Israel should withdraw troops gradually from the Palestinian towns it has occupied for more than a year.

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