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Official- U.S. plan for Mideast peace to share Jerusalem
JERUSALEM -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has won new assurances that the United States is going ahead with a Mideast peace initiative that calls for establishing a Palestinian state with a foothold in Jerusalem, a Palestinian Cabinet minister said Friday.
The United States has not presented the emerging proposals to Israel or the Palestinians, officials from both sides said. However, Palestinian officials have been briefed on the U.S. ideas by Arab leaders, most recently this week when Arafat visited Saudi Arabia, said Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian planning minister.
Palestinian officials have said the Bush administration was to have unveiled the peace initiative in September, during the U.N. General Assembly. However, that move was disrupted by the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
Shaath said no new date has been set for going public, but that Arafat was reassured by Saudi mediators that President Bush remains committed to the ideas.
"In President Arafat's last visit to Saudi Arabia, just two days ago, our brothers informed us that the Americans assured them that they are still sticking to their positions," said Shaath. "All the indications coming now from the United States are positive and encouraging."
According to Shaath, the U.S. plan would affirm the Palestinians' right to statehood, the principle of trading land for peace and U.N. resolutions 242 and 338 that call for an Israeli withdrawal from lands it occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.
The initiative also states that the fate of disputed Jerusalem must be determined in peace talks, and that Islamic and Christian holy places in the city would come under Palestinian control, Shaath said.
The renewed U.S. efforts come at a time when Washington is trying to win Muslim and Arab support for U.S. strikes against Afghanistan, which is believed to harbor the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, accused terrorist Osama bin Laden.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon already sees that any Mideast peace settlement would involve a Palestinian state. The spokesman added: "We're not at a moment where somebody is going to plunk down a map of Jerusalem."
Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh, who speaks for the government, said Friday that Israel has not been informed by the United States about a peace plan. "I have to say that what I hear about what's being said by the American government these days is a program that Israel cannot accept," Naveh told Israel radio.
Naveh said Israel staunchly opposes "ideas which include at their core the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."
The minister was sharply critical of previous U.S. initiatives, including ideas put forth in the 1980s by then-President Ronald Reagan.
"All history shows that when the Americans put a plan on the table, like the famous Reagan plan, the programs did not achieve their aims," Naveh said.
"The United States helped achieve progress between Israel and the Arabs only when it did not publicly put a plan on the table, but conducted quiet contacts between the sides."