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President Bush Again Delays Mideast Peace Plan - 2003-03-14

President Bush today announced yet another delay in what he calls a “roadmap to peace” in the Middle East. His peace plan was developed in June of last year. It was delayed first to allow Israeli elections to take place, then to allow Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to form a new government. Now, as Carol Pearson reports, the president wants a new Palestinian prime minister in place, one he says would have real governing authority, before unveiling his plan for middle east peace.

At the White House, President Bush called on both sides to meet their responsibility for peace. For the Israelis, that would mean ending settlement activity in the occupied territories. For the Palestinians, it would mean a new Prime Minister.

"We expect that such a Palestinian prime minister will be confirmed soon. Immediately upon confirmation, the roadmap for peace will be given to the Palestinians and the Israelis."

The Palestinian parliament voted this week to create a prime minister’s post, but it did not give it authority to lead negotiations with Israel. That power remains with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, which the U.S. opposes.

Friday, violence continued, this time in a refugee camp near the West Bank City of Jenin. Palestinian witnesses said Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships entered the camp and surrounded a house said to be used by the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad.

At least five Palestinian gunmen died in the confrontation, bringing the number of Palestinians who died in fighting in Jenin to 10 in a 24-hour period. A senior adviser to President Arafat called the shootings a new massacre against Palestinian civilians.

“This is a grave situation, the Israeli extremist government is continuing their escalation, their war against the Palestinian people.”

An Israeli army spokesman said those killed in Jenin on Friday were all members of Palestinian militant groups.

“These are Islamic Jihad terrorists. They’re all from the Islamic Jihad. They all opened fire on us. And if they don’t get them in Jenin, they’ll get us just north in Haifa.”

Israel has intensified military operations in Palestinian areas in recent months in a renewed effort to stop attacks on Israelis.