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PNA Unsettled by Sharon – Bush Meeting

PNA Unsettled by Sharon – Bush Meeting

Israeli PM Raised Big Obstacles in Way of Roadmap: Nabil Amre

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) condemned Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s statements in Washington Tuesday as “disappointing” after the premier pledged to carry on with the building of the Apartheid Wall on occupied Palestinian territory, while the hosting US President Bush voiced “understanding” of his guest’s announcement.

Sharon pledged at the White House during talks with President George W. Bush to continue building what Palestinians describe as the “Apartheid Wall” or the “Segregation Wall” while Israel refers to as a “security fence,” which separates Palestinians in the West Bank from Israelis and lopes into Israeli-occupied land, confiscating more than 25% percent of the West Bank area according to independent sources and 58% percent according to President Yasser Arafat.

“The security fence will continue to be built with every effort to minimize the infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population,” said Sharon in a joint press conference with Bush in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

President Bush has given Sharon broad support on key issues, backing off from overt criticism of the separation wall.

Bush said he understood the wall was a “sensitive issue” and pledged to continue to talk with Sharon “on how best to make sure that the fence sends the right signal, that not only is security important, but the ability for the Palestinians to live a normal life is important as well.”

“I would hope in the longer term that the fence would be irrelevant,” Bush said. “The fence is a sensitive issue. I understand that.”

“There is no wall between Sharon and Bush,” an Israeli official said about the relationship between the two men, whose Tuesday meeting was the eighth such encounter since Sharon assumed power.

On another touchy issue, Sharon said he and Bush agreed there would be no release of Palestinian prisoners “with blood on their hands.”

However Bush said Israel must consider the consequences of its actions on the peace process, but Israeli and US officials said the comment was a general one, not linked to any specific issue, AP reported.

“I encouraged the prime minister to take further steps to improve the daily conditions faced by Palestinians,” Bush said.

Bush reconfirmed the US commitment to the security of the “Jewish state.”

He declared: “America is firmly committed to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and we are firmly committed to the safety of the Israel people. My commitment to the security Israel is unshakable.”

But he called on both sides to do more to move the peace process forward.

“Much hard work remains to be done by Israelis and Palestinians and by their neighbors,” Bush said.

“Israelis and Palestinians deserve the same chance to live normal lives free from fear, free from hatred and violence and free from harassment,” he added.

Relief Among Israelis

Relief was evident among the Israeli delegation following talks between Sharon and Bush, which defused expectations of heavy US pressure over Israel’s construction of the separation wall.

A senior Israeli official at the talks said there was no pressure exerted on Sharon over the Apartheid Wall.

“In the whole conversation, there were no differences of opinion ... There was no atmosphere of disagreement in the meeting,” he said, saying Israel made it very clear construction of the wall would continue.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” the official quoted Sharon as saying.

But White House officials later denied allegations the president had changed his tune over The Wall, AP reported.

Sharon, who was to meet Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday morning before flying home, promised Bush that he would make sure to minimize suffering to Palestinians through whose lands the wall will run.

Following his meeting with Bush, Sharon held talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell covering the dismantling of Palestinian “militant groups and other issues,” an Israeli official said.

PNA Unsettled by Bush – Sharon talks

Palestinians were unsettled and disappointed by Tuesday's White House talks.

“I had hoped that Mr. Bush would stand there next to Sharon and tell him stop it, stop building the wall,” Palestinian former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told The Associated Press in Jerusalem.

The PNA Information Minister Nabil Amre said that Sharon showed no respect to Bush.

“I think that President Bush made an effort about the wall but Israel did not pay respect to him,” Amre said.

Bush said during talks with the PNA Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas on Friday that the wall was “a problem” and it was undermining confidence in the peace process.

“He (Sharon) gave no single positive sign at all. He is not stopping the (Jewish) settlements and he is going on with the wall,” the PNA minister added.

The “roadmap” to peace requires Israel to halt “settlement activity” at nearly 150 formal Jewish settlements. Israel must also take down small settlement outposts that have gone up since March 2001.

“This means there are big obstacles in the way of the peace process and the implementation of the roadmap” peace plan, said Amre.

Before Sharon-Bush meeting the PNA hoped Bush will force Sharon to swiftly implement a US-sponsored “roadmap,” a peace plan drafted and adopted by the EU, US, UN and Russia.

“This visit (by Sharon) will show which way Bush will go in peacemaking. Will he take the comprehensive approach to peace or take Sharon's step-by-step approach and fragmentation of peace?” said Saeb Erekat, a former Palestinian cabinet minister.

“The road map is an opportunity that should be seized to make peace. It's time Mr. Bush introduced a package with monitors and a time frame,” he said.

HAMAS Urges End to ‘Betting on Americans’

Similarly the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas” said the outcome of Bush - Sharon meeting was proof that Abbas' government should “stop betting on the Americans.”

Hamas political leader Abdelaziz Rantissi also criticized comments by Bush that the rise of a Palestinian state was dependent on defeating the threat of terror groups.

“He has run away from past statements,” said Rantissi whose group is regarded as a terror organization by the US.

“He has put obstacles in the way of a Palestinian state because he needs the support of Zionist groups in Washington in the next election,” he told AFP.

Rantissi added that “Sharon's statement will have a negative impact on the hudna,” in reference to a three-month halt to anti-Israeli attacks called by Hamas and other anti – Israeli occupation groups exactly on June 29.

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