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Israel Accepts Road Map to Peace Plan - 2003-05-26

Our top story. U.S. President George W. Bush is now expected to hold a summit with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in the Middle East next week, to promote the U.S. backed “road map” peace plan. The move follows Israel’s decision to accept the plan. Amy Katz has details.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said approving the road map was a tough decision, one that will require painful concessions. He also said he has assurances from Washington that Israel’s concerns about the plan will be addressed.

Palestinian officials welcomed the approval, urging Israel to implement the road map without any preconditions or changes.

Meanwhile, on the Greek Island of Crete Monday, a meeting of European Foreign Ministers and their counterparts from Arab nations as well as Israel. Arab ministers there reacted to Israel’s acceptance of the road map with cautious optimism.

During a visit to Beirut Monday, The United Nations’ senior Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, said the road map is the best chance for peace in the region.

“It calls for the end of occupation which started in 1967, and it calls for, on that basis, the universal recognition of the state of Israel and it calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the end of occupation.”

Mr. Roed-Larsen said the goal is a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East based on UN resolutions.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah Monday. He said the acceptance of the road map has “started a new page in the history of the region.”

Just hours after the Israeli Cabinet approved the peace plan, Israeli forces demolished the West Bank homes of the Palestinian suicide bombers who attacked a bus in Jerusalem last week, killing seven people.

The Israeli cabinet gave conditional approval to the road map Sunday by a 12-to-seven vote after what was described as a long and stormy meeting. Four ministers abstained. In a separate vote, the cabinet also approved a resolution that rejects the right of return for Palestinian refugees to what is now Israeli land.