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Arabs Skeptical of Israel's Implementation of 'Roadmap' Peace Plan - 2003-05-01

Many officials and analysts in Arab countries say they hope the plan succeeds. But they don't trust Israel to live up to its part of the plan.

The spokesman for the Cairo-based Arab League, Hisham Youssef, says the release of the roadmap is a positive and welcome step in the right direction, but he says its importance should not be exaggerated.

"Our main concern is the implementation of the roadmap and the establishment of a Palestinian state," he said. "What we need is a very clear timeline and guarantees Israel would implement whatever is agreed on because from our past experience, we know that Israel usually accepts things then once we come to implementation they are not implemented."

The roadmap was drawn up last year by a quartet of composers, the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. It was delivered to Palestinian and Israeli leaders on Wednesday, following the formation of new Palestinian leadership. The roadmap calls for an end to the conflict and the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Around the Arab world, reaction to the roadmap was skeptical. According to the Associated Press, the Syrian government Thursday called the roadmap futile as long as Israel refuses to withdraw from the occupied territories. Syria reportedly urged the United States to force Israel to comply with the roadmap.

Another concern was voiced Thursday by a former member of the Egyptian parliament and political science professor Mona Makram Ebid. She said the roadmap should take a more comprehensive approach to Middle East peace.

"One of the caveats of Camp David and the peace process with Egypt was exactly that, that it was not an overall peace plan for the Arab world and I believe this is very much in demand today to have a regional peace plan [and] that the road map should include both Syria and Lebanon as they are involved in this conflict," said prefessor Ebid.

Ms. Makram Ebeid said she does have hope for the new peace plan. But she says the United States must insist that Israel make the concessions she says are needed for peace.

U.S. Ambassador to Egypt David Welch issued a statement Thursday confirming the roadmap's official presentation to the Egyptian government. He said Egypt played a crucial role in helping Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian leader, form his cabinet, which the ambassador said, facilitated the release of the roadmap.