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US Envoy Meets Palestinian PM in Effort to Advance 'Road Map' - 2003-06-17

U.S. President George W. Bush's Middle East envoy, John Wolf, met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday as part of renewed efforts to get the international "road map" peace plan back on track. The meeting follows failed efforts by Egyptian mediators to convince Palestinian militants to agree to a ceasefire.

The American diplomat met for two hours with Mr. Abbas and Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan. Neither Mr. Wolf nor the Palestinians had any comment following the meeting.

Mr. Wolf met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the need for the Palestinian Authority to act to stop terrorist attacks.

Israel Radio reports that Secretary of State Colin Powell is to visit the region Friday to keep up efforts to salvage the latest Middle East peace plan, known as the "Road Map."

Two weeks ago President Bush met with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in Aqaba, Jordan where agreement was reached to implement the plan. A week later the region was again embroiled in violence with Palestinian attacks on an Israeli military check point in Gaza and a suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 17 people. Israel responded with helicopter gunship attacks on senior officials of the militant group Hamas. All together, the violence claimed more than 60 lives.

In the days since, the United States and Egypt have been trying to restore calm. Prime Minister Abbas still hopes to convince Palestinian militants to agree to a ceasefire.

The militant group Hamas is insisting Israel stop attacks against its leaders while Israel says it will continue striking any militant posing an immediate threat of an attack on Israel.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz Rantisi, himself a target of an Israeli helicopter gunship attack last week, says Hamas is ready to stop targeting civilians if Israel releases all prisoners, stops incursions into Palestinian areas, and stops demolishing the homes of those accused of carrying out terror attacks on Israel. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ruled out any concessions. He told the Israeli parliament Monday he will not make a peace deal until the Palestinian Authority cracks down on militant groups.

Meanwhile, militants fired mortars at a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip wounding two people slightly.