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Peace Progress Depends on Palestinians Fighting Terrorism, says Israeli Foreign Minister - 2003-05-04

U.S. Middle East envoy William Burns began a round of talks Sunday with Israeli government officials as part of renewed Middle East peace efforts. Mr. Burns's discussions are expected to pave the way for a visit to Israel later this month by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr. Burns held talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem. He briefed Mr. Shalom on Secretary of State Powell's visit Saturday to Syria and the agreement by Damascus to shut down the offices of Palestinian terrorist groups in the capital.

Their discussions also included the recently released road map to peace, an international plan which sets out a timetable for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by 2005.

The road map is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, together known as the Quartet.

Following their meeting, Mr. Shalom told reporters he had made it clear to Mr. Burns that progress on the plan depended on the willingness of the Palestinian leadership to stamp out terrorism.

Mr. Shalom said Israel would not accept a Palestinian Authority proposal to reach a cease-fire agreement with militant groups such as Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.

He said the Palestinian leadership must not only fight terror but also destroy the terror infrastructure of such groups.

Israel is demanding that Hamas and other Palestinian groups be disarmed and that members of their military wings placed behind bars.

Mr. Burns, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, was expected to hear a similar message during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later on Sunday.

Israeli officials said that they expected Mr. Powell to visit the country later this month.