The co-authors of a symbolic Palestinian-Israeli peace accord are scheduled to meet US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in Washington, a move likely to deepen a spat between the United States and its ally Israel.
Uri Zaki, a spokesman for former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin, one of the pact's authors, confirmed on Wednesday the scheduled meetings to include Beilin and former Palestinian information minister Yasir Abd Rabbu.
The meeting with Wolfowitz, one of Bush administration's staunchest advocates of Israel, would likely raise tensions between Washington and Israel's right-wing government, already angry over a meeting planned for the same day between the co-authors and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Israel has rebuked Washington for the Powell meeting, but the prime minister's office declined immediate comment on the session with Wolfowitz.
While Washington has supported Powell’s scheduled meeting with the Geneva initiators, US officials stressed their “road map” was the preferred solution to ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
On Monday Abd Rabbu and Beilin unveiled the so-called Geneva Initiative in a glitzy ceremony in Switzerland, attended by intellectuals, former Nobel peace prize winners and world leaders.
Palestinians across region have
denounced the Geneva plan
The Palestinian Authority has given the unofficial plan only half-hearted support, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government has opposed it outright.
Abd Rabbu and Beilin defended the plan on Wednesday as a workable solution to "untouchable" issues that was intended to advance, not undermine, the "road map".
Hailed by dozens of former world leaders as a brave peace initiative, the Geneva deal would require Israel to pullout out of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and share sovereignty over Jerusalem.
The deal also effectively gives up the right of return for some 3.8 million Palestinian refugees, allowing Israel to decide how many may return to their homes and villages.
Under UN resolution 194, Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes and land when Israel was created in 1948 can return.
Palestinian factions, including the main resistance group Hamas, have denounced the deal as a capitulation of Palestinian rights.
Meanwhile, Abd Rabbu criticised what he described as Aljazeera's "exaggerated" reporting.
"Why does Aljazeera consider the existence of opposition sides in Palestine exceptional?" he said, referring to the coverage of the Geneva talks.
"If some opposition sides do not prefer to hold inter-talks, that does mean they are extremists," he added.