Sharon calls off Washington trip

The Israeli Prime Minister has announced that he will not be going to Washington as scheduled, in the aftermath of four Palestinian attacks in two days in the occupied West Bank

    Stalling on the peace process:
    Sharon is not taking the steps
    specified by the roadmap

    "The prime minister has decided to postpone his departure to the United States for his meeting with President Bush in light of the wave of terrorism," Sharon's office said in a statement.

    He planned a cabinet meeting at 6 pm to decide on a response to the attacks, for which aides placed ultimate blame on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

    The announcement that the Washington trip has been delayed follow the first talks to be held between an Israeli and a Palestinian prime minister in two years.


    Israeli retribution


    Aljazeera correspondent Walid Al Umari reports today’s blasts, “the first on Israeli targets in six months” and the “penetration of Israel's tight security" are likely to lead to "tougher Israeli measures .”


    “More Israeli ministers have called for a complete cut of communications with the Palestinians, including Mahmoud Abbas' new government," he said, "and have called anew for the expulsion of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.”


    Umari says he expects Israel will tighten its blockade on the Palestinian territories and launch an intensive campaign of arrests, prompting further Palestinian counter-attacks.”


    Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr condemned the blasts and called on the Israeli government to exercise restraint in its response.


    Israeli government spokesman Ari Pazner accused Arafat of being behind the latest attacks. In a bid to sideline Arafat, Israeli governments have attempted to hold him responsible for any attack against Israelis regardless of the organisational affiliation of the attacker.  


    "It is in Yasser Arafat's interest to hamper his rival Abu Mazen, to prove he cannot govern, and for that purpose he has formed an alliance with Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad, in an attempt to stop the revival of the peace process with terrorist acts," Pazner charged.


    Hamas opposition


    Islamist Palestinian groups waging resistence operations  against Israel have sworn to defy Abbas and scuttle the US-backed "road map" peace plan.


    Abdulaziz Al Rantisi, a Hamas leader, is opposed to any negotiations between the Palestinians and the current Israeli government.


    “Mahmoud Abbas should not meet with Sharon. Sharon is a terrorist,” he said.


    Sharon has been criticised for stalling on implementing the road map. His government has already issued fifteen amendments to the plan and not taken steps to halt settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.


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