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US Envoy Brings Plan for Palestinian State to Mideast - 2002-10-23

U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, William Burns, arrived in Israel Wednesday to promote a plan for a Palestinian state. But as the plan has already aroused strong objections from Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Mr. Burns is in Israel to discuss a so-called road-map for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The plan was worked out by officials from the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - a group known as the diplomatic quartet for the Middle East.

The plan calls for wide-ranging reforms of the Palestinian Authority, the founding of a Palestinian homeland with temporary borders by the end of 2003 and a fully independent state with the signing of a peace treaty by 2005.

Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon has condemned the plan, saying that Israel is being asked to take what he called irreversible steps, while the Palestinians are just making statements.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Mr. Sharon, says Israel is treating the proposals as draft documents that are open to amendments. "Burns does not come with the final blueprint, with the road map to peace in the Middle East. He comes with a draft proposal, in which each of the participants has to make comments and suggestions on the basic draft, which was designed between the United States and the Quartet," Mr. Gissin explained.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinian leadership has not yet formally received the plan.

He added, however, that in order for the proposals to succeed, they need to be clear and backed by strong international supervision. "Once we receive this road map, we will contact the leadership for a meeting to study it and then we will respond. I have to say that in the last two years there have been various attempts to break this vicious cycle (of violence) and all the initiatives remained as ideas on paper, simply for the lack of three things. One, the mechanisms for implementation, secondly the specific timelines and thirdly the international monitors on the ground," Mr. Erekat said.

Mr. Burns was to discuss the plan with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres ahead of talks with Mr. Sharon and Palestinian officials on Thursday. The U.S. envoy is not meeting with Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

President Bush has said that Mr. Arafat should be replaced and has called for sweeping reforms of the Palestinian Authority.