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U.S. reject Israeli objection to 'roadmap'

Special to World
Friday, January 3, 2003

JERUSALEM The United States has rejected virtually all of Israel's reservations regarding an international plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israeli diplomatic sources said the latest draft of the so-called roadmap for a Palestinian state does not include any of Israel's proposed revisions. The sources said the United States and its partners rejected Israeli objections concerning the extent of an Israeli withdrawal, immediate negotiations on the future of Jerusalem and the evacuation of Jewish settlements.

"This document has turned into a major concern for us," a senior Israeli official said.

The United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia appear to have accepted only one objection by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The Quartet agreed to delay release of the roadmap until after the Israeli elections on Jan. 28.

The sources said the second draft of the roadmap appears to be the final one. The draft overrides Israeli objections on three major points. The roadmap contains a clause that Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders, a point opposed by Sharon.

The second point is that Israel must discuss the future of Jerusalem at an early stage of the negotiations. Sharon had sought to delay such talks. Sharon, the sources said, also wanted to remove a clause in the roadmap that called for an Israeli evacuation of Jewish settlements before the conflict is resolved. The United States rejected the request.

Israel was also rebuffed in efforts to base the roadmap on the principles espoused by President George Bush in June and ensure that the United States alone is deemed as the arbiter of Palestinian reforms and ceasefire. Bush had linked a Palestinian state with an end to the war against Israel as well as the removal of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The latest draft of the roadmap does not contain such a link. Instead, the roadmap said an Israeli-Palestinian peace would be based on principles espoused by Saudi Arabia more than a year ago.

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