Palestinians Agree to CIA Chief's Peace Plan
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and CIA chief George Tenet struck a deal early Wednesday on Tenet's plan for putting in place a lasting ceasefire and Middle East peace negotiations, said reports.
"President Yasser Arafat and George Tenet arrived at an agreement on the US proposal on the basis of recommendations from the Mitchell report," Arafat advisor Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP in the West Bank town of Ramallah where the meeting was held.
Another Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Arafat had accepted all but a few points in the plan to end the eight-month Palestinian uprising against three decades of Israeli military occupation.
"The United States is pleased that a work plan has been accepted by both sides," a senior State Department official in Washington told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Steps will be taken immediately to implement the work plan," the official said, noting that Tenet, who had originally intended to return to Washington on Tuesday, would remain in the region until at least Wednesday for possible further talks.
Israel said Tuesday it accepted the Central Intelligence Agency chief's plan, which is aimed at forging a joint Israeli-Palestinian truce.
The two sides have already declared ceasefires independently.
The new agreement aims at implementation of a series of confidence-building measures proposed last month by the US-led Mitchell commission designed to return the two sides to the negotiating table.
Tenet held the last-minute talks with Arafat before his planned return to the United States after days of coaxing the two sides into security talks without concrete results.
The Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tenet had told Arafat that, if he left the region without agreement, "that could be seen as a green light for air attacks on Palestinian targets."
He said Arafat had assented to all but a few points in Tenet's plan, notably ones calling for his security forces to arrest activists suspected by Israel of masterminding attacks and the creation of a buffer zone.
Arafat was also said to have demanded an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territories.
According to Israeli media reports, Tenet's plan also requires an immediate Israeli withdrawal of its forces to positions before the eight-month Palestinian uprising broke out.
The Palestinians would have to immediately enforce the ceasefire, and -- as well as arresting about 20 militants from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements -- collect all illegal weapons in areas under their control, the reports said.
At the end of a six-week cooling-off period, the two sides should then start implementing confidence-building measures called for by the panel, headed by former US senator George Mitchell, they said.
The commission called for an immediate ceasefire, an Israeli freeze on settlement-building and full Palestinian efforts to prevent "terrorism" in order to move back to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, United Nations chief Kofi Annan arrived in Cairo Tuesday evening, kicking off a week-long tour of the Middle East.
Annan said a "fleeting opportunity" for peace must be seized right away, according to Al Ahram daily.
Annan met with Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa after his arrival and was to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Maher on Wednesday.
Since the outbreak of the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict last September, Reuters reports that Palestinians have killed approximately 88 Israelis with weapons ranging from stones and knives to machineguns and car bombs. The latest suicide bombing raises that toll by at least 20. Israeli military sources have reported well over 600 injuries to Israelis of Jewish descent.
In the same time period, according to CNN, Israeli soldiers and armed Jewish settlers have killed 13 Arab Israelis and 450 Palestinians with weapons ranging from machineguns and tanks to US-made Apache helicopter gunships and F-16s. The most recent Israeli tank attack raises that death toll to 453.
According to Amnesty International, nearly 100 of the Palestinians killed were children.
In addition, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society has reported over 14,000 Palestinians wounded.
Jewish author Noam Chomsky, who according to a New York Times Book Review article is “arguably the most important intellectual alive,” has been quoted as saying: “State terrorism is an extreme form of terrorism, generally much worse than individual terrorism because it has the resources of a state behind it.” – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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