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Abbas Meets US Envoy Wolf Powell’s Visit Confirmed

PM Abbas Meets US Envoy Wolf, Powell’s Visit Confirmed

Israel Makes No Concessions at New Security Meeting

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) on Tuesday met in Gaza city with the US Middle East envoy Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, ahead of a visit on Friday by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Wolf, who conferred with top Israeli leaders Monday, met for three hours in Gaza Tuesday with PM Abbas, the Palestine National Authority’s (PNA) Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian head of intelligence Amin al-Hindi, and met separately with PNA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.

Wolf confirmed “the United States commitment to the parallel and integrated implementation of the roadmap,” Saath said.

He described Palestinian meetings with Wolf as “positive.”

“Mr. Wolf spoke positively,” he said, adding that the US envoy “stressed the United States is determined to implement the roadmap” and “wants to see results on the ground.”

Shaath said the Palestinian side presented “all” their demands to Wolf.

“We presented all our demands, namely a stop to all forms of Israeli violence, release of Palestinian detainees, halt of settlement according to the roadmap, lifting the siege imposed on President Yasser Arafat, a stop to the demolition of houses and confiscation of land,” he said.

Shaath also stressed “the importance of active monitoring of the implementation of the roadmap, and the commitment to the fixed stages and timetables thereof.”

John Wolf began Saturday the task of monitoring implementation of the “roadmap,” which provides for a series of mutual steps by each side ahead of creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

No Israeli Concessions at New Security Meeting

Peace prospects had brightened Monday with progress reported on ceasefire talks and an accord near on a withdrawal of Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) from parts of the Gaza Strip and perhaps the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Israel and Palestinian officials met again Tuesday following an initial meeting on Sunday to hammer out details of an accord for a partial Israeli pullout, Palestinian officials said.

The officials said Dahlan and General Abdelrazak al-Majaida, head of public security in the Gaza Strip, took part in the discussions with the Israeli side headed by General Amos Gilad, the coordinator of the IOF in occupied Palestinian territory.

The talks on plans to withdraw Israeli occupation troops from parts of the Gaza Strip and possibly the West Bank town of Bethlehem took place at the Israeli-reoccupied town of Biet Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

A senior Palestinian security source told AFP the meeting was “positive,” but that Israel made no significant concessions. The Palestinians have said they were ready to take charge of security in any areas evacuated by IOF.

The source said the Palestinians presented Israel with a complete program of the planned security takeover, with detailed plans of how the Palestinian forces were to be deployed.

"We told them we are completely ready to re-deploy our forces in all areas from which Israel will withdraw, and to protect the security and safety of all people, Palestinians and Israelis, in those areas,” the source said.

The Palestinians urged Israel to pull out of both Gaza Strip and Bethlehem and asked them to remove all army roadblocks.

They also asked for freedom of movement within Gaza and demanded the Israelis reopen Salah al-Din Street, the road which runs the length of the Gaza Strip, but Israel said it would open only part of the road, to a few vehicles.

"We said we wanted free movement for all people on this road because we need the Palestinian people to support the peace process, which will make our security position easier,” the source said.

"We reject the Israeli comments about this issue because they are not serious,” the source said. "On the face of it, the Israeli position is positive, but in reality, nothing is new. It still looks like occupation.”

Israel also rejected a Palestinian request to open the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was closed on Monday due to “security considerations.”

The Palestinian delegation stressed as well the need for Israel to stop its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian activists.

"We asked them to stop all assassinations immediately and Israel said they would stop but they reserve the right to carry out an assassination in an emergency.”

"We told them to completely stop because if anything happens, the factions will answer and we will return to the type of violence like we saw last week,” the source added.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the meeting.

However, "the goal is to finalize conditions for implementing a complex plan under which the Palestinian Authority could take control of areas of the West Bank and Gaza evacuated by the Israeli army,” a senior Israeli official told AFP.

Powell’s Visit Friday Confirmed

Meanwhile, Israeli foreign ministry and US State Department confirmed that Secretary Powell was expected in Israel Friday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

“This visit is very important, I shall meet him. Of course, the prime minister will also meet him,” Shalom told Israel Radio.

Powell would also meet with PM Abbas. The PNA Information Minister Nabil Amre welcomed the visit as "very important.”

Powell, who is currently in Cambodia, will fly in Israel before meeting Sunday in Jordan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum with the other members of the diplomatic “Quartet” that drafted the “roadmap” peace plan: Russia, the United Nations and European Union.

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