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Israel Rejects Palestinian Cease-Fire Proposal - 2003-10-08


Israel has rejected an offer from new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, to negotiate a cease-fire.

The Israeli government insists that Mr. Qureia must first dismantle and disarm militant Palestinian groups.

Mr. Qureia appealed to the Israeli government Wednesday to reach a cease-fire and bring an end to more than three years of bloodshed.

Israeli Labor Minister Zevulun Orlev, speaking on behalf of his government, turned down the offer. He says Mr. Qureia must first prove himself with deeds and not words.

Israel is demanding that the Palestinian prime minister fight the Palestinian Islamic groups that have carried out terror attacks, including a suicide bombing on Saturday that killed at least 19 people in the port city of Haifa.

Israel's deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, says that the first step toward halting such attacks is reform of the Palestinian security forces.

"All the [Palestinian] security organizations will be under one control and the [Palestinian] government will start to act vigorously against terror," he said. "That's what they [the Palestinians] will have to do and we will wait patiently to see if they are doing it."

Israel's demands have in turn been rejected by Mr. Qureia, who says he has no intention of launching a crackdown against Palestinian militants.

He says he prefers a truce that is binding on both Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Qureia made his cease-fire offer one day after taking office, adding that he is also ready to start talks immediately with Israel on the international road map to peace plan.

The plan, which is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

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