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PNA Accepts Partial IOF Withdrawal as a beginning

PNA Accepts Partial IOF Withdrawal as Part of Comprehensive Pullout

Hamas to ‘Carefully and Seriously’ Consider Egyptian Ceasefire Proposal

One day ahead of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Gaza, an Egyptian team of mediators was about to win an agreement in principle on truce from Hamas as part of a cease-fire package, which the Palestinian leadership approved on Sunday.

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) on Sunday announced that President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership have taken a final decision to assume full responsibility in reoccupied areas, which the Israeli Occupation Forces withdraw from.

In a statement issued following its meeting in Ramallah, the PNA government of PM Abbas said, “We have entered the stage of detailed preparation to start implementing the roadmap plan, accompanied by an active political movement by the United States, Egypt and the Quartet to stop the security deterioration, and to move quickly to the political track.”

The PNA Minster of Information Nabil Amre meanwhile announced that the PNA has accepted a proposal for partial withdrawal by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) from Gaza and the West Bank city of Bethlehem “as part of the comprehensive withdrawal stipulated by the roadmap” from Palestinian areas the IOF reoccupied in 2002.

The Israeli government has yet to confirm its withdrawal.

Amre, in a press conference hosted by PMC Sunday, said the Palestinian side “is now waiting an answer from the Israeli government” to the Palestinian demands presented to the Israeli side in a high-level meeting Thursday between the PNA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan and the IOF coordinator in occupied Palestinian territory Amos Gilad.

US Envoy Wolf Starts Mission

Meanwhile, a senior US envoy began the task of implementing an international “roadmap” for peace in the Middle East.

The US Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf arrived in Israel late Saturday amid stepped-up US pressure on both sides to end one of the worst cycles of bloodshed in the 32-month-old conflict and advance on the peace plan championed by President George W. Bush.

Wolf, who is to monitor implementation of the “roadmap” for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, had talks with Avi Dichter, head of Israel’s domestic intelligence service Shin Beth, and was to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom, “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz and other Israeli military and security service officials on Sunday.

Palestinian sources said Wolf, who heads a 12-strong team of CIA and State Department officials, would also have talks with Palestinian officials.

Bush announced Wolf’s appointment at a summit in Aqaba, Jordan, with premiers Sharon and Abbas on June 4.

His mission “will be charged with helping the parties to move towards peace, monitoring their progress and stating clearly who is fulfilling their responsibilities,” Bush said, adding, “And we expect both parties to keep their promises.”

Egyptian-Hamas Talks Promising

In a related development, an Egyptian team of mediators was about to win an agreement in principle on truce from the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” as part of the proposed cease-fire package.

One day ahead of an announced visit to Gaza by PM Abbas on Monday, Mustafa Al-Buhaeiri, Egypt’s deputy intelligence chief, arrived in Gaza Sunday and held talks with Hamas leaders, including Ahmad Yassin, the group’s spiritual leader, and Abdul Aziz al-Rantisi, who survived an Israeli extra-judicial assassination attempt last week.

Officials close to the talks told AP they were optimistic an agreement could be reached.

Hamas movement said they would “carefully and seriously” consider the ceasefire proposals presented to them by the high-level Egyptian political and security delegation, a Hamas statement received by AFP said.

“We will study carefully and seriously the ideas that the Egyptian delegation is suggesting,” it said following a meeting with the delegation in Gaza City.

“We promise to discuss these suggestions and agree to continue dialogue” with the Egyptian officials, Hamas said, while at the same time reserving the right to resist the Israeli occupation.

The group said it appreciated the Egyptian efforts to further “higher Palestinian interests” but stressed that the outcome of two peace summits held in Egypt and Jordan at the start of June fell well short of meeting Palestinian national aspirations.

“The roadmap is not enough to solve the Palestinian position, it does not represent Palestinian ambitions,” the group said, referring to the internationally-backed peace “roadmap,” which seeks to end 32-months of bloodshed and pave the way for the creation of a Palestinian by 2005.

Al-Buhaeiri’s talks are part of a joint US-Egyptian push for a cease-fire. PM Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is scheduled to meet Al-Buhaeiri Monday in Gaza ahead of his planned meetings with Hamas and other opposition Palestinian groups, media reports said.

“We are helping the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the aim of easing tension and sitting at the negotiation table,” Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told reporters in Cairo Sunday.

“Israeli efforts are also needed. Therefore, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should help because this will be in the interest of his people's peace and the Palestinians as well,” he added.


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