Powell recognises Israel's
concerns 
"The United States government received a response from the

government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the road map," said US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in a statement.

 

"The United States shares the view of the government of Israel that these are real concerns, and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the road map”, the two added in the statement issued by the White House during a visit by US President George Bush to Texas.

 

The statement came after diplomatic sources in Israel said Sharon was ready to garner the support of the majority in his Cabinet for the “road map” in exchange for an American commitment to address Israel’s reservations about the plan.

 

The Palestinians have embraced the plan that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. But Israel refused to accept it, raising some 15 reservations.

 

Earlier, diplomatic sources said Sharon’s decision on whether to accept the plan would depend entirely on the final wording of the White House statement.

Israeli endorsement would apparently cover only the broad outlines of the plan, not its details. “The idea is that Israel accepts the principles, the framework and the process of the ‘road map’ and the two-state solution”, the US-based New York Times quoted a diplomat as saying.

“But Israel would not accept every detail. It doesn’t mean Israel won’t have comments on certain issues.”

Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Nabil Shaath, however, said Palestinians wanted the United States to get Israel to accept the plan. “What Israel says of conditions is not binding on us”, he said.

 

Israel is demanding the Palestinians to abandon the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland. It also wants to postpone the issue of dismantling Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to future talks.

 

An Israeli source close to Sharon said US guarantees could take the form of “annexes or side-letters” to the road map.

 

US officials said Bush could hold talks with Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, but diplomatic sources said there would be no such meeting until Israel accepted the plan.

 

Possible sites for the meeting include Geneva or the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, according to US officials.