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Palestinian PM Urges US Firmness on 'Road Map' - 2004-02-15

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia, has urged the United States not to support Israel's proposal to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. He says the United States should maintain its backing for the international "road map" to peace plan.

Mr. Qureia says he is disturbed by recent reports that the U.S. administration may be leaning towards giving approval to unilateral moves proposed by Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

He says it will be "regrettable" if the United States supports Mr. Sharon's plan.

Mr. Queria's remarks followed the issuing of a statement from the Palestinian leadership expressing fears that Mr. Sharon plans to move Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip simply to re-locate them in the West Bank.

The Palestinian cabinet instead wants Israel to withdraw from all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian cabinet also says that Washington should stick to supporting the international "road map" to peace plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005. Mr. Sharon's cabinet has also endorsed the "road map."

Mr. Sharon says that if negotiations with the Palestinians do not produce any progress under the plan within the next few months, then he will start unilateral moves. The prime minister says the proposals include removing most if not all settlements in the Gaza Strip.

His statements have greatly angered Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip.

About 100 settlers began a four-day march from the territory to Mr. Sharon's residence in Jerusalem to protest against the plans.

Opinion polls indicate most Israelis support an evacuation of settlements from the Gaza Strip, but the settlers claim that such a move will only encourage more Palestinian terrorism.