The US-backed 'road map' is aimed
at ending violence

But the armed wing of Fatah struck a note of caution saying the peace plan left many unanswered questions.

“The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are happy that Sharon and the Israeli government accepted the road map. It is a good thing,” said spokesman Abu Mujahed on Wednesday.

“We are happy with the decision but there are still many questions,” he added.

Abu Mujahed called for an end to Israel’s policy of targeted killings of Palestinian leaders, saying it was a pre-requisite for the plan to be effective.

He urged Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Abu Mujahed said security issues in these areas should also be returned to the Palestinians.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades emerged after the Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation erupted in September 2000.

Palestinians sceptical

Israel gave a tentative nod of approval to the “road map” but passed a resolution denying Palestinians the right of return. Israel also voiced 14 reservations over the plan.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Israel’s reservations.

“We don’t accept each side picking and choosing only those specific elements that are convenient for them in the road map,” he said.

Palestinians have adopted the plan unconditionally, despite initial reservations which they later dropped.

The blueprint, which calls for, among other things, an end to Israeli violence and Palestinian resistance attacks and freeze in Jewish settlements, was presented to both sides a month ago.

Abbas stressed that Washington had assured them there would be no changes to the plan.

Abbas is expected to meet Sharon on Thursday to discuss the implementation of the three-phase document, ahead of a three-way summit with US President George W. Bush slated for next week in Jordan.

Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual leader of the main Palestinian opposition group, Hamas, warned Wednesday the summit and a second meeting between Arab leaders and Bush will fail unless Palestinians are granted their full rights.

Abbas met last week with senior Hamas officials in an unsucessful effort to persuade them to curb their resistance activities. Yassin said the group would meet again with the Palestinian premier but did not give a date.