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Us ambassador presents road map { April 30 2003 }

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Wednesday, April 30, 2003 Nisan 28, 5763
Last Update: 30/04/2003 16:21

U.S. Ambassador to Israel presents road map to Sharon

By Haaretz Service and Agencies

United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer presented Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with the 'road map' to Middle East peacemaking, drafted by a quartet of international mediators, at 3:30 P.M. on Wednesday, Army Radio reported. The plan will be presented to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) at 5 P.M.

"At 5.00 p.m. today (1400 GMT), the road map will be presented to the Palestinian prime minister," UN envoy to the Middle East, Terje Roed-Larsen, told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Larsen had attended the swearing-in ceremony of reformist Abu Mazen and his cabinet on Wednesday.

The U.S., one of the key backers of the road map along with the United Nations, European Union and Russia, had identified Abu Mazen's taking office as a key step to be implemented before releasing the peacemaking plan.

Hamas chief rejects plan, vows more attacks
The leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas on Wednesday rejected the new U.S.-backed "roadmap" plan for Palestinian-Israeli peace and vowed no respite in attacks on Israel.

"The road map aims to assure security for Israel at the expense of the security of our people. It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause (for independence). It is rejected by us," Sheikh Ahmed Yassin told Reuters in Gaza City.

The Palestinian Legislative Council overwhemingly confirmed Abbas as prime minister and approved his cabinet in a Tuesday evening vote. Applause swept the special Palestinian legislative session in the West Bank city of Ramallah as deputies voted 51-18 with three abstentions to endorse Abu Mazen's cabinet list.

Abu Mazen took office on Wednesday, the official Palestinian news agency said.

Palestinian authorities admitted only television crews, without their mobile phones, into the packed swearing-in ceremony at the battered headquarters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

But a reporter from the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said that Abu Mazen was the first minister to be sworn in on Wednesday.

Abu Mazen is the first-ever Palestinian prime minister, a post Arafat created under international pressure to cede some powers and implement democratic reforms. He has vowed to curb "armed chaos" by militant groups that he said had set back Palestinian aspirations to a state on land captured by Israel in 1967.

His cabinet includes both critics of Arafat and loyalists from within his Fatah movement.

Grace period
Israeli intelligence assessment officials have reportedly advised the government to grant a "grace period" of military restraint to strengthen the standing of Abu Mazen.

Intelligence assessment officials have submitted to the government a secret report of recommendations aimed at helping Abu Mazen establish his authority, Israel Radio said early Wednesday.

The report was quoted as saying that Abu Mazen will need time to "fill Arafat's shoes, symbolically as well as in his performance as a leader," and that he will need to shore up his position by improving the PA's standing in the U.S. and Europe, and to demonstrate competence in the PA's administrative responsibilities.

The report listed the following recommendations:

- Grant the new prime minister a grace period, during which his practical actions in fighting terrorism will be weighed.

- Avoid public contact with Abu Mazen in the short term. Such contact could hamper him in internal struggles expected within the PA.

- Avoid speaking too positively of Abu Mazen, and avoid the appearance of interfering in PA affairs, a situation which could strengthen the hand of Yasser Arafat, and undermine Abu Mazen's legitimacy among the Palestinian population.

- Do not attempt to prevent Abu Mazen from visiting Washington, and work with the Bush administration on a joint policy of postive measures, "carrots" to improve the Palestinians' plight.

- Work with Egypt and Jordan to aid Abu Mazen's authority.

The report warns, however, that during a period of military restraint by Israel, Abu Mazen's premiership could act as a "fig leaf" for actual rule by Arafat.

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