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US gives Israel free hand

 US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Israel yesterday, saying it would be up to Israel to decide when Israeli-Palestinian violence has eased enough to go ahead with a US plan to resume peacemaking.

Powell flew in from Egypt for talks yesterday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Since a US-brokered truce took effect June 13, the overall level of violence has dropped significantly. However, signs of a US-Israeli rift emerged Tuesday when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met President George W. Bush. Sharon told Bush that he demanded 10 days of total calm with the Palestinians before moving ahead with US plans to push forward peace efforts. Bush sounded more flexible, insisting that the “cycle of violence must be broken” and saying there was some progress in reducing clashes between the parties.

Sharon was also frustrated over Bush’s refusal to pay $800 million to cover the cost of Israel’s pullout from Lebanon as promised by then President Clinton. Israeli officials said in private that Powell’s current visit to the Middle East was arranged under Saudi and Egyptian pressure.

In Alexandria yesterday, Powell told a news conference after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: “We’ve had some quiet over the last several days. Nobody is claiming that the level of violence is down where anybody could say it was either realistic or zero...But at the end of the day it is Mr. Sharon who will make that judgment.”

“Mr. Sharon has been quite clear. He is seeking absolute quiet and by that he means absolute quiet. President Bush was speaking yesterday of a realistic level of violence, something that makes it clear to all sides that there has been a change, that the cycle of violence has been broken,” he said.

“But the real key to this is that at the end of the day it is the parties that will have to decide whether there is an adequate level of violence, an adequate level of quiet in order to move forward,” Powell added.

Source: Arab News©

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28 June 2001 07:10:24 م

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