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Palestinian Militant Groups Delay Ceasefire Announcement - 2003-06-29

A joint truce declaration by Palestinian militant groups that had been expected to be announced today has been delayed until at least Monday.

Palestinian cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says a disagreement over wording of the ceasefire agreement has caused the delay.

He says a joint announcement is now going to be made simultaneously in Cairo, the West Bank town of Ramallah and in Gaza City.

The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have already said their groups have agreed to a three-months suspension of attacks on Israel. But the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant wing of Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction, have complained they were not consulted in the negotiations suggesting a further delay could be possible.

Meanwhile, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are expected to announce agreement on an Israeli withdrawal from parts of the Gaza Strip

The transfer agreement requires an Israeli pull back to positions it held prior to September, 2000. In exchange for the withdrawal, the Palestinians are to take specific measures to combat terrorism.

The agreement is seen here as a first, tentative step on the internationally backed road map to peace and comes as U.S. national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, continues a visit to the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Israeli officials say they will be watching to see if the Palestinians fulfill their end of the bargain. They say they will pass on to the Palestinians intelligence of militant threats against Israel but reserve the right to take action if the Palestinians don't.

In talks in the West Bank town of Jericho Saturday night, Ms. Rice issued an invitation to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to visit Washington.

The invitation is seen as part of the American effort to remain involved in the internationally backed peace process known as the road map.