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US Envoy Meets Palestinian PM - 2003-05-05

U.S. Middle East envoy William Burns is meeting today with new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the so-called roadmap, the latest international peace effort to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr. Burns is holding talks Monday with Mr. Abbas but not with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

The Palestinian minister in charge of peace negotiations, Saeb Erekat, says that this is the result of scheduling difficulties.

Israel Radio reported that the decision is part of what it described as a American diplomatic freeze against Mr. Arafat. U.S. President George W. Bush has said that the Palestinian president should be replaced. No American official has met with him since June.

Mr. Burns' meeting with Mr. Abbas comes one day after the U.S. official met with key Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

At the start of his visit, Mr. Burns said that the U.S. administration is encouraging both Palestinians and Israelis to take the necessary measures in order for the roadmap to succeed. "That is going to require a restoration of Palestinian efforts against terror," said Mr. Burns. "It is going to require steps taken by all sides to make that possible. So we are going to do everything we can to move in that direction."

Mr. Burns is expected to tell Prime Minister Abbas that his government must move quickly to crack down on Palestinian militants and curb attacks against Israel.

The roadmap outlines a series of steps each side must take to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and usher in a Palestinian state by 2005.

The plan is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Mr. Burns' talks on the roadmap are meant to pave the way for a visit to the area by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell later this month.