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US Envoy:  Palestinians Must Take Decisive Action Against Violence


A U.S. envoy to the Middle East is calling for Palestinians to take decisive action against terrorism if they want to achieve statehood.

Assistant Secretary of State William Burns told Palestinian officials that halting terrorist attacks forms a vital part of a new peace plan for the Middle East. He appealed for decisive action to end terror and violence and also for sweeping reforms of the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Burns says that such actions are necessary if Palestinians are to have any hope of ending Israeli military occupation and what he called a terrible conflict.

He says the Israelis also have to live up to their commitments but stressed that terrorism and violence are setting back the goal of Palestinian statehood.

"I emphasized that in this process all sides have obligations, and that [it] is only through all sides fulfilling their obligations that we are going to be able to move ahead together to end the occupation that began in 1967," he said. "In the interests of both Palestinians and Israelis, to end the very real suffering and humiliation the Palestinians experience under occupation every day, and the terror and violence that have done so much to undermine the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians."

The U.S. envoy discussed a three-phase plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Palestinian officials in the West Bank city of Jericho. The plan, which is being called a "road map to peace", is supported by Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, as well as the United States.

It calls for a Palestinian homeland with temporary borders by the end of 2003 and a fully independent state to be achieved by 2005.

Following discussions with Mr. Burns about the plan, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmed Queri'a, told reporters that the Palestinian people will support any international plan that leads them to statehood.

"We need a real road map [that] will take us from the situation we are [now] to the last destination, where we can see a real Palestinian independent state," he said.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was not invited to the meeting. President George Bush has called for Mr. Arafat to be replaced as part of a process of reforming the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Burns is to meet later with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss the peace proposals. Mr. Sharon has said he has serious reservations about the plan.

An Israeli negotiating team lead by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was also due to meet at the same time with a Palestinian delegation lead by Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat.

They were to discuss the demand by President Bush that Israel improve the living conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.