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Sharon, Abbas Prepare for Second Summit, Thursday - 2003-05-29


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet later in the day for their second summit in less than two weeks. The location of the talks was not immediately announced for security reasons. While their first meeting yielded no tangible results, both leaders are under pressure to do better this time around.

This time is supposed to be different. When Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon met two weeks ago, they reportedly spent a lot of time just re-stating old positions. Now, they are under pressure to come up with some concrete steps to implement the international peace plan, which has been discussed for months and was officially unveiled the end of April.

Top agenda items will concern security and the easing of Israeli restrictions on the Palestinians.

Mr. Sharon is expected to offer to pull back his troops from parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and allow Palestinian security forces to take control there. He will most certainly repeat his long-standing demand that the Palestinian leadership show a 100 percent commitment to cracking down on militants and stopping attacks against Israelis.

Mr. Abbas has said he is working on the security situation and in an interview just published, the prime minister said he could get the militant Islamic group Hamas to agree to a cease-fire as early as next week. He also said he will open discussions on that issue with Islamic Jihad. Both organizations have claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Israelis during the past two-and-one-half years.

Also expected to attend the meeting is Mr. Abbas's security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, who is reported to be bringing his own plan for taking over security in areas the Israelis withdraw from.

These steps are vitally important since changes would signal that the so-called "Road Map" to Middle East peace is beginning to be implemented.

Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas are to meet again Wednesday in a three-way summit with President Bush in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba.

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