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Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers Work Toward U.S. Summit - 2003-05-30

The United States is warning its citizens of plots to kidnap Americans on the Gaza strip. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says it has received credible reports of possible kidnapping plots and is advising Americans to use caution and, if they can, postpone travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The warning comes just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, held their second face-to-face meeting, ahead of a planned summit with U.S. President George W. Bush. Amy Katz has details.

President Bush left Washington Friday. heading to Europe, for a conference of the world’s industrial leaders, before traveling to the Middle East for talks aimed at moving the Israeli—Palestinian peace process forward. He hopes to move the two sides toward implementing the internationally-backed, so-called “road map” for peace.

Working toward that summit, Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas traveled to Jerusalem Thursday night – for a second, face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Sharon. Both the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers reportedly described it as “positive.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the meeting was “fruitful” and could create a “good atmosphere for the future.”

“We are willing to make gestures to ease the life of the Palestinians and we are willing to work together. I think this is the time that they will put an end to terrorism, violence and incitement, to ease the life of the Israelis, and we will ease their lives.”

But Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib does not see it that way. He said the meeting did not live up to expectations.

“That meeting was expected to end up by implementing the first step of the road map, which is the declaration by the two sides reiterating each party’s recognition of the other and committing themselves to stopping the violence.”

Mr. Khatib said it seems America will have to pressure Israel to take every step in the peace plan.

After the Thursday meeting – Israel announced it would ease some travel restrictions on Palestinians, issue 25-thousand work permits allowing Palestinians to return to jobs in Israel, release some prisoners and withdraw troops from the centers of some Palestinian cities.

The Palestinian Prime Minister said he is still working on the security issue. Mr. Abbas said he is close to reaching a ceasefire agreement with the militant group Hamas – which has claimed responsibility for many of the recent suicide bombings against Israelis.