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Wolf to Lead Team of US 'Roadmap' monitors

Wolf to Lead Team of US monitors to Oversee Palestinian-Israeli Commitment to “Roadmap”

US assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation John S. Wolf will soon lead a team of monitors to the Middle East to help the Palestinians and Israelis fulfil their obligations under President George W. Bush’s “roadmap” peace plan, and to publicize it when either side falls short of their responsibilities.

The team will consist solely of American officials in at least its early phases, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

“This mission will be charged with helping the parties to move towards peace, monitoring their progress and stating clearly who was fulfilling their responsibilities,” Bush said Wednesday in a statement following a day of summit meetings with Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers in the Red Sea port city of Aqaba.

The Palestinian leadership has been a long-time advocate of bringing international observers to the region, arguing that only outside monitors could hold Israel accountable to the world for its promises to withdraw from reoccupied territory.

“We welcome and stress the need for the assistance of the international community and, in particular, the Arab states, to help us,” Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian prime minister, said. “We also welcome and stress the need for a US-led monitoring mechanism.”

To win Israeli support for the new team, the Bush administration promised that all the monitors would be Americans at least initially. But senior American officials have not foreclosed on the possibility of adding monitors from Europe or Russia — whose governments helped develop the peace plan, known as the “roadmap” — to the group, The New York Times said.

"It is an understanding between the United States and Israel that the only party that has proven an honest broker in the peace process is the United States," said Ra’anan Gissin, a foreign affairs adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Wolf is a 33-year veteran of the Foreign Service who has worked in Australia, Vietnam, Greece, and Pakistan. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he was ambassador to Malaysia from 1992 to 1995 and ambassador for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation from 1997 until 1999.

Bush on Wednesday said that Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser, and Colin Powell the Secretary of State would be his “personal representatives” to the two parties.

Powell said that Wolf, who is expected to resign his State Department post to lead the team, was notified of his new assignment two weeks ago and would be arriving in the region “very soon.”

Powell added that the American ambassador to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, and the acting consul general, Jeffrey Feltman, would play major roles in helping oversee the monitors.

“We’re going to have a very strong team here,” Powell told reporters as he prepared Wednesday to leave Aqaba with Bush for Doha, Qatar.

However, US Administration officials released few details on the team, its mission or its timetable for reaching the region, saying that it was still being assembled in the United States. But they said that initial plans called for the team to be relatively small — about 10 people or so — and to consist mainly of intelligence officials and diplomats. Senior officials have said the team was likely to be based in Jerusalem, but they said that could change.

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