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Israel wants more than a dozen changes to a Middle East peace initiative, and will walk away from negotiations if the amendments are rejected, an aide to the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, says.






Israel's demands set to threaten peace plan

By Greg Myre in Jerusalem

April 7 2003

Israel wants more than a dozen changes to a Middle East peace initiative, and will walk away from negotiations if the amendments are rejected, an aide to the Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, says.

Dov Weisglass said most of Israel's concerns centred on ending Palestinian attacks and establishing Palestinian security forces committed to halting violence.

In more fighting on Saturday, the Israeli military said they had killed an alleged Palestinian militant in a gun battle near Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement next to the West Bank city of Hebron. In Jenin two members of the International Solidarity Movement - who have been acting as human shields to prevent Israeli attacks - one American and one Dane were wounded by Israeli gunfire, Palestinian witnesses and hospital officials said.

Brian Avery, 24, of Albuquerque, was seriously wounded when he was hit in the face by a bullet from an Israeli armoured vehicle as he went to investigate the source of gunshots, a witness said.

Earlier, Lassel Smith, a Dane, was shot in the leg during a clash between stone-throwing youths and soldiers, Palestinians said. The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the shootings.

The peace "road map" is backed by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, who envisage the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005. Both Israelis and the Palestinians support the plan in
principle, though Israel has expressed reservations about several crucial points.

The Palestinians say they accept the peace plan in its present form and accuse Israel of seeking to delay it or undermine efforts to carry it out by submitting a long list of alterations.

Without detailing Israel's reservations, Mr Weisglass told Israel radio: "We will submit 15 reservations on the road map to the United States, and if we find that a refusal of our proposed changes could jeopardise Israel's security, we will not accept it.

"On these issues we will not make any concessions, and if we have to, we will leave the negotiating table and come home."

Mr Weisglass is expected to travel to Washington soon for talks with the Bush Administration.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said in Brussels earlier last week that the peace plan would be presented "as is" when the new Palestinian cabinet was in place. But the plan would not be imposed on the two sides.

"They'll have an opportunity to comment on it and to talk to each other about it," Mr Powell said.

The new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, was appointed last month and is expected to announce his cabinet within the next couple of weeks.

Mr Weisglass said Israel was ready to hold talks with Mr Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen.

"We will negotiate with Abu Mazen when he announces his government, and if he is moving in the right direction, Israel will reply immediately by moving in the same direction, so that his success will also be ours," Mr Weisglass said.

The New York Times


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