Israel does not want to "argue" with Powell, said Israeli spokesman Avi Pazner on Wednesday, without elaborating.   

His comments came a day after a rare public spat with the United States after Israel chided Powell's decision to hear out the Geneva Accord architects at talks in Washington likely later this week.

Prominent Palestinian politicians and Israeli opposition politicians unveiled the alternative peace plan in Switzerland on Monday.

Palestinian authorities have offered a half-hearted welcome to the initiative, while Israel's right-wing government
has denounced it as treacherous.

The Geneva pact envisages a Palestinian state like the US-backed "road map", but goes further in requiring the dismantling of most Jewish settlements from the West Bank and Gaza, and the right of Israel to decide how many Palestinian refugees to take back. 

The two steps have inflamed Israel's pro-settler right and
Palestinian resistance groups respectively. But world leaders have hailed the accord as the basis of future compromise
and urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to capitalise on it. 

US blueprint only option
   
US officials stressed the six-month-old "road map" remained
the way to go, but rebuffed Israel's attempt to discredit the
more ambitious Geneva accord and said Powell would meet its
initiators in Washington later in the week.

Powell says he is 'obliged' to hear
out different peace plans

Powell, during a visit to Tunis on Tuesday, said he had the right to meet anyone with ideas on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"I don't know why I or anyone else in the US government should deny ourselves the opportunity to hear from others who are committed to the peace plan with ideas," he said.

"I am the American secretary of state. I have an obligation to listen to individuals who have interesting ideas, this in no way undercuts our strong support for Israel," Powell declared.

Criticism increases

Palestinian activist Mustafa al-Barghuti joined the chorus of criticism after he denounced the plan on Wednesday.

Al-Barghuti, who also serves as the Director of the Health Development Information and Policy Institute (HDIP), told Aljazeera the Geneva plan prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state.

He lashed out at the plan, saying it relinquished Palestinian rights and legalised Jewish settlements.

Hamas has renounced the plan
saying it relinquishes rights

Under international law, Jewish settlements are illegal, a stance not recognised by Israel.

Al-Barghuti also said the plan had caused rifts among Palestinians at a time when they needed a united stance.  

The agreement is the result of two-and-a-half-years of behind closed doors negotiations, led by former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasir Abd Rabbu.

Details

Under the initiative, Israeli occupation troops would withdraw from almost all the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Both sets of people would share sovereignty over Jerusalem while Palestinians would effectively renounce the ''right of return''.

The latter is the most contentious issue in peace efforts.

UN resolution 194 stipulates the right of return for about 4 million Palestinian refugees to their homes and villages in what is now Israel.