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Mubarak Reportedly Receives Summary of Bush Mideast Peace Plan - 2002-06-18

Egypt's al Hayat newspaper is reporting President Mubarak has received a summary of President Bush's soon to be announced peace plan for the Middle East. High-level Egyptian government officials were quoted as saying "the proposals for peace focus on two main elements."

According to officials quoted by the newspaper, the first element of the Bush plan calls for the creation of a Palestinian state that has administrative and security authority over the Gaza Strip. Palestinians would also have administrative control over part of the West Bank with Israel in charge of security.

According to al Hayat, Egyptian government officials said the Palestinian state would include 40 percent of the West Bank. One official was quoted as saying "the transitional state would have a full representative to the United Nations, would be recognized internationally, would negotiate for itself and would have foreign relations and trade treaties with other countries."

The second element, according to the newspaper, calls for an international peace conference to be held this September in Washington while simultaneous meetings of the U.N. General Assembly are occurring.

The international peace conference, which would be attended by Palestinians and Israelis, would focus on implementing U.N. resolutions 242, 338 and 1397 that form the basis of the U.N.'s vision of a Palestinian state. A peace initiative put forward by Saudi Arabia, adopted during the Arab summit in March, would also be examined.

The international conference would be attended by "partners concerned in the peace process," including Lebanon and Syria, as well as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States.

According to Egyptian officials, the international conference would be instructed to create procedures to start the execution of political, economic and security reforms. It would also establish a timetable for those reforms to be implemented.

Having control of only 40 percent of the West Bank may not be acceptable to most Palestinians, but the Palestinian leadership may find something worthwhile in the plan, says Abdullah el Ashaal, an expert on Arab affairs who lectures at several universities in Cairo. "What would be a little bit disturbing to the public" is the size of the state, he said. "It is supposed to be 40 percent of the land that was supposed to be totally for the Palestinians. It could be very disturbing to the masses of the Palestinians, but to the government or to Yasser Arafat, I think, according to his way of thinking, now you can take something and ask for more."

Mohammad Kamal, a university political science teacher in Cairo, believes the leaders of the Arab world, at least publicly, will react coolly to the plan because it does not address several key issues. "We do not know what are going to be the borderlines of the state," he said. "If the Palestinian state or authority will be able to control checkpoints on the borders or not and it also does not say anything about the future shape of the state, its border, its sovereignty. What about the rest of the West Bank? What about settlements? What are you going to do about the settlements? It does not answer the final status questions. Refugees, Jerusalem, and so on."

When asked about these so-called final status questions, a U.S. government official in Egypt said these "questions would be examined during the proposed peace conference in Washington."

An Egyptian government official said President Mubarak plans to wait until President Bush delivers his peace proposal before publicly responding.