Palestinians welcome road map breakthrough

The Palestinian leadership says it is "pleased" that the United States does not intend to change a Middle East peace plan in response to Israeli requests.

    Powell appeared to indicate that
    the road map will remain as it is

    Reacting to news that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has accepted the US-backed "road map", Hassan Abdel Rahman, the head of the US Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) office in Washington, said the Palestinian Authority was pleased with the latest developments.


    Abdel Rahman told reporters: "We hope that it (the plan) will not change. That's our understanding. They (the Americans) say it does not mean amending the road map."


    "We are pleased that the United States is taking the road map seriously and willing to act on it, and is urging the parties to go ahead. We are pleased that the United States does not accept amending the road map," he added.


    Abdel Rahman declined to speculate on how the United States could address "Israel's concerns" without making changes.


    The United States and fellow mediators delivered the plan to Israel and the Palestinians on 30 April. The Palestinians accepted it and Israel, which raised some 15 reservations, is expected to endorse it in a cabinet meeting on Saturday.


    Sharon's acceptance


    Sharon extended support to the road map on Friday barely an hour after US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said that Washington would address Israeli reservations that have held up the plan.


    "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 statement read.


    US Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Paris this did not mean amending the plan, while in Jerusalem the office of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel was ready to accept "the steps which are outlined in the road map".


    Sharon says his reluctance to embrace the plan, which envisages a series of steps leading to a Palestinian state, is because the Palestinian leadership has not cracked down on groups responsible for human bombings.


    Palestinian opposition groups argue that their attacks are legitimate acts of opposition to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


    Bush may meet Abbas


    The US president hinted he may
    meet with Abbas

    Also on Friday, US President George W Bush said he would "strongly consider" meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas after the Israeli leader accepted the road map.


    Amid speculation Bush might add a Sharon-Abbas meeting to a Europe trip in early June, perhaps in Geneva or the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Bush said he was "exploring the opportunities" for a three-way summit.


    "If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting," he said.


    "Prime Minister Sharon accepted the road map and that's progress," Bush said. "He accepted it because I assured him the United States is committed to Israel's security and that since we're committed to Israel's security as we move forward we will address any concerns that might arise."


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