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Abbas to Ask Bush for Peace Plan Schedule (AP) By JILL LAWLESS JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 07/22/03 9:39 AM) Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27514-2003Jul22.html
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JERUSALEM - Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will ask the United States to press Israel for a firm schedule of peace moves when he meets with President Bush this week, a Palestinian lawmaker said Tuesday.
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Abbas "cannot come back empty handed from Washington," said Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat. "It´s essential for Bush to send (Abbas) back with a comprehensive implementation plan ... especially timelines and monitors."
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Abbas´ scheduled White House meeting Friday will be the first in almost three years for a Palestinian leader, and will be followed by Bush´s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on July 29.
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Violence is down sharply since Palestinian militants declared a unilateral truce on June 29 after 33 months of fighting that killed 2,414 people on the Palestinian side and 806 on the Israeli side.
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But in Israel´s north, Hezbollah guerillas in southern Lebanon fired at least two salvoes of anti-aircraft shells into the town of Shlomii, injuring two people, the Israeli army said Tuesday.
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The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah routinely responds to Israeli air force flights over Lebanon with anti-aircraft fire. Sources in Lebanon said Israeli aircraft overflew the region Tuesday. The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the claim.
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Hezbollah and Israel fought a bloody guerrilla war for 18 years in southern Lebanon before Israel´s withdrawal in 2000. Since then, Hezbollah has frequently fired across the border.
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Despite the drop in violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, progress on implementing the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan is stalled. The plan - a blueprint for ending violence and establishing a Palestinian state by 2005 - calls on the sides to carry out their obligations in parallel. But each is saying the other must move first.
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Speaking after a meeting with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa Tuesday, Abbas said he would use his trip to Washington "to convince (the United States) with our viewpoint in order to pressure Israel and in order to carry out its duty toward the Palestinian issue."
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Among Israel´s obligations is the dismantling of the roughly 100 illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank. Israel has removed about a dozen - and a similar number have gone back up. In parliament Monday, Sharon pledged to remove illegal outposts, but opposition legislators said his moves were only for show.
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The road map calls on Israel to freeze all construction in the 150 veteran Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza - and this, too, has not been done.
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It also says Israel should withdraw troops gradually from the Palestinian towns it has occupied for more than a year. Israel withdrew this month from parts of Gaza and the West Bank town of Bethlehem, but says it will not return any other areas until the Palestinians disarm the militant groups.
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The road map calls for a Palestinian "dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure." The Palestinians say they have collected some weapons and on Sunday reissued a 1998 decree effectively outlawing the violent groups - but Abbas is reluctant to order a forceful crackdown for fear of sparking a civil war.
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"Cracking down on Hamas, Jihad and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all," Abbas said after his meeting with Moussa in Cairo. "We are applying the law which we accepted under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, and that is what we will do."
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The road map stipulates that these and other steps should be taken by the end of the year. That is to be followed by a second phase of the plan which foresees a provisional Palestinian state with temporary borders. A third phase in 2005 would address final borders, the future of settlers and refugees, and Jerusalem.
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The road map does not address the question of the estimated 7,700 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel for alleged involvement in terrorism.
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The issue has become a major point of contention, with the Palestinians saying a mass release would give Abbas a critical boost among his people and militant groups warning they will call off the truce unless the prisoners are freed.
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Israel has agreed to release only a few hundred, fearing a large- scale release would boost the militant groups.
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There have been some signs in recent days that Israel may be reconsidering its position, however, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Shin Bet security agency chief Avi Dichter were to meet Tuesday to discuss a list of eligible prisoners. No announcement on a release was expected before the Sharon-Bush meeting, however.
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In Washington, Abbas will get the full diplomatic treatment on his first visit since being appointed, with U.S. backing, in April. In addition to his talks with Bush, he will also meet National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and senior members of Congress.
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Abbas also met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Monday, and was also due to meet Jordan´s King Abdullah before heading to the United States. Egypt and Jordan are seen as key regional mediators.
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Saudi Arabia also threw its weight behind peace moves. On Monday Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud told reporters in Cairo that he had no doubts about American commitment to the road map.
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Amid the intensifying diplomacy, Israel uncharacteristically called on the European Union to play a bigger role in peace efforts.
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In Brussels on Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told EU counterparts he would welcome greater European involvement, warming toward a continent that Israel has long viewed as biased in favor of the Palestinians - an allegation the EU denies. (© 2003 The Associated Press 07/22/03)
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