Speaking after a meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman on Wednesday, Arafat said the talks "formed part of the efforts designed to advance the peace process and to ensure the application of the road map".

  

"The withdrawal from Gaza which the Israelis are speaking about must be accompanied by a withdrawal from the West Bank and be fully incorporated under the terms of the road map to enable creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."

 

Aljazeera's correspondent reported that Sulaiman's meeting with Arafat constituted a last-minute change in plan.

 

Sulaiman was originally scheduled to travel to Israel directly. As per the change of plan, he left for Israel after the meeting with Arafat.

  

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is planning to evacuate all settlers and troops from Gaza and four settlements in the northern West Bank by the end of next year in the absence of any progress in the internationally drafted road map peace plan, which aims for Palestinian statehood by next year.

 

Cairo's terms

  

Arafat and Sulaiman (R) talked
about Egypt's security proposal

Sulaiman, who did not make any comment to reporters, was understood to have laid down Cairo's terms for getting involved in the pullout.

  

The general, President Husni Mubarak's pointman on the Middle East, also met with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya and national security adviser Jibril Rajub in Ram Allah.

  

Quraya said the discussion had focused on how to "consolidate the inter-Palestinian dialogue to reach a common denominator, bring an end to the impasse in the peace process and reorganise the Palestinian security services".

 

For its part, Egypt gave Arafat two months to make good on promises of reform if Cairo is to help Palestinians keep order.

  

Cairo has offered to send up to 200 personnel to Gaza, which was under Egyptian administration before Israel seized the territory in the 1967 Middle East war, to train a 30,000-strong Palestinian force to maintain security.

 

Most Palestinian political and resistance groups have opposed the offer.

 

Jordanian view

 

Talks "formed part of
the efforts designed
to advance the peace process and to ensure the application of
the road map"

Yasir Arafat

Jordan, which used to administer the West Bank before the war, said on Tuesday that Amman's decision to take on security responsibilities would depend on the outcome of talks between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians.

  

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quoted on Wednesday as saying that while Egypt had an important role to play, it could not act as an Israeli-Palestinian mediator.

  

"We attach vast importance to Egyptian activity in Gaza and along the border, but I don't intend to allow Egypt to become a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians," he said.


Israeli and Egyptian officials are expected to meet on Thursday to discuss issues arising from the unilateral withdrawal plan.