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Palestinians For, Israelis Against Proposed EU Peace Plan - 2002-09-04

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he has accepted, in principle, a European Union plan for peace in the Middle East. Mr. Arafat says that the European Union has made a very important initiative and he has accepted it as a basis for reviving the Middle East peace process.

One of the provisions of the plan, which was agreed on last week by EU foreign ministers, calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by the year 2005.

Mr. Arafat says he intends to study the EU proposal carefully and prepare a more detailed response.

Mr. Arafat was speaking after meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah with visiting Danish Foreign Minister, Per Stig Moeller. Denmark is the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency.

Under the European plan, a security agreement would be concluded with Israel ahead of Palestinians elections in January.

During a second phase, a Palestinian state would begin to evolve with provisional borders by 2003. Final borders would be established two years later.

Mr. Arafat says that there is great need to move forward and restore Middle East peace talks, not only for the sake of the Palestinians, but also Israelis and all nations in the region.

However, Mr. Moeller did not receive a positive response from the Israeli side.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer told Mr. Moeller he was opposed to the Palestinians holding elections before important reforms had taken place in the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Ben-Eliezer says that elections in the near future would strengthen Hamas, and other terrorist groups, and extend the rule of Mr. Arafat.

Meanwhile, two Palestinians suspected of helping their brother plan a suicide bombing were expelled Wednesday from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, attacked the decision.

"This is a new escalation. This is a dangerous policy," he said. "This policy will lead nowhere, apart damaging and sabotaging all the efforts to find a political solution."

Daniel Taub, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, defended the move.

"The idea of moving them to Gaza is something that is specifically provided for in international law," he said. "It is called assigned residence, where there are individuals, who have proven that they are a danger to security."

Israel's Supreme Court this week gave the Israeli army the go-ahead to carry out more forced transfers of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli security establishment considers relocation of family members a powerful tool in the fight against Palestinian terrorism.