Bush may hold Mid-East summit in Jordan

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has said that US President George W Bush was likely to hold a summit with Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in Jordan next week even as his French counterpart held talks with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

    Sharon (L) and Abbas (R) will
    probably meet Bush in Jordan

    “It looks like it will be in Jordan,” Shalom said about the possible summit between Bush, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

     

    “We think it is very important that the president of the US is coming to our region to move us forward,”  Shalom told reporters at a Euro-Mediterranean meeting of European Union and Arab foreign ministers as well as Israel in the Greek island of Crete.

     

    Shalom also said that “a few others” could attend the meeting without mentioning names. But Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moasher said there was “no decision” yet on where the summit would be held. 

     

    The summit was made possible after the Israeli cabinet gave on Sunday a conditional approval of the US-sponsored “road map” plan.

     

     De Villepin meets Arafat

     

    De Villepin (L) with Arafat: "road
    map" is a new page in history

    In Ramallah, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Monday he was convinced Palestinian President

    Yasser Arafat

    would rein in resistance groups as required by the "road map".

     

    "A new page has been opened in the history of the region and it is important that all parties concerned should assume their responsibilities," de Villepin told reporters after meeting Arafat.

     

    For his part, Arafat said he welcomed Israel’s acceptance of the plan. “But the reservations raise question marks,” he told reporters.

     

    The Palestinians have accepted the “road map” which calls for establishing a Palestinian state by 2005.

     

    Right of return

     

    But the Israeli cabinet coupled its approval of the plan with a reaffirmation of Israeli reservations, which the US says would be addressed.

     

    One of the reservations is about the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. The “road map” does not make a specific mention about the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

     

    Instead, it states that a “fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue” should be reached. The Israeli cabinet on Sunday voted on a separate resolution rejecting the refugees' right. 

     

    Doubts

     

    Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz cast doubts on the "road map", saying: “We are saying ‘Yes’ to the process, even though the chances are not necessarily high, certainly not (in view of the) time that has passed since the Abu Mazen (Abbas) government was established.”

     

    Iran on Monday criticised the “road map”, describing it as an unworkable “new hardship” for Arabs and Palestinians, state radio quoted foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi as saying.


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