Israelis, Palestinians plan summit

Special to World
Thursday, November 20, 2003

JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei plan to meet next week. Sharon, on a visit to Italy, said he would meet with Qurei despite Tuesday's attack on two soldiers in the West Bank.

The soldiers were killed when a Palestinian sniper fired at them at close range at a roadblock just outside Bethlehem and then fled into the town. Israeli security forces have imposed a curfew on the neighboring Al Khader village and army officials said a decision to reimpose tighter restrictions on Bethlehem would be considered.

Last week, Sharon refused to meet with Qurei after PA leader Yasser Arafat resumed control over Palestinian security agencies, limiting Qurei's authority in a power struggle between the Palestinian leaders.

"We don't know if he [Qurei] will be good or bad, but clearly he's a very independent person," a senior Israeli source said in Rome. The source said that Israel would continue ceasefire talks with the Palestinians and that Israel would halt military operations if the ceasefire held.

For his part, Qurei reiterated that he hopes Israel "does not intend to meet for tactical reasons only."

In Gaza, Qurei and the Egyptian delegation mediating ceasefire talks will meet Palestinian insurgent factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Earlier, Arafat removed a sanction against Palestinian insurgents and has ordered Palestinian banks to unfreeze their accounts. The accounts were frozen when the previous ceasefire was broken.

At the UN, Russia has tabled a draft resolution of the Quartet's roadmap. Moscow is urging the UN Security Council to adopt the roadmap as UN policy, despite Jersualem's opposition to the plan.

On Wednesday afternoon, a unidentified gunman opened fire on five divers from Ecuador on the Jordanian side of the Arava border crossing, close to the southern Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat. The divers were entering Israel when the gunman shot at them, injuring all five, one seriously. Israeli troops killed the attacker.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to interrupt a televised speech to lawmakers.

"The president has suffered a health crisis," the Egyptian Television announcers said. No more details were available.

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