The backers of an alternative Middle East peace plan, buoyed by its launch in Geneva, prepared to take their campaign to Washington, while Israel warned US Secretary of State Colin Powell against meeting with them.
Former Israeli parliament speaker Avraham Burg, fresh from attending the launch of the Geneva Initiative on Monday, said the project's chief architects were likely to meet with Powell in Washington later this week.
"There has been an agreement from the American side for a meeting even though a precise rendezvous has not been fixed yet," Burg told public radio.
"If everything happens as planned, the meeting will take place at the end of this week."
Burg said the driving force on the Israeli side, Yossi Beilin, and his chief Palestinian interlocutor, Yasser Abed Rabbo, would head the delegation.
A Palestinian walks through the concrete blocks that separate the West Bank village of Abu Dis from Jerusalem. The backers of an alternative peace plan, buoyed by its launch in Geneva, are preparing to take their campaign to Washington as Israel warned US Secretary of State Colin Powell that he would be making a mistake if he agreed to meet them. (AFP/Orel Cohen)
The US State Department said Monday that Powell might meet with Beilin and Abed Rabbo. "We would expect administration officials to meet with them," spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Asked if Powell would meet with them, Boucher said: "We'll see if that could involve the secretary. It might."
But Israeli Trade Minister Ehud Olmert, the official number two to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said such a meeting would be an "error and an incorrect decision by a senior official from the American administration.
"I am certain of his friendship towards Israel but I have my doubts about his judgment over this affair," he added.
Last week Powell stopped short of endorsing Geneva, but said he "welcomed" the initiative.
The plan, drawn up by leading Palestinian and Israeli opposition politicians and intellectuals in secret talks, contains proposals for resolving some of the thorniest problems in the decades-long conflict such as the creation of a Palestinian state and the status of Jerusalem.
But Sharon has rubbished it, insisting the "roadmap" is the only framework through which a solution should be found. The Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat has endorsed it only half-heartedly.
In a joint article for the International Herald Tribune Tuesday former Israeli justice minister Beilin and ex-Palestinian information minister Abed Rabbo said they were looking for US support to keep up the momentum.
"Secretary of State Colin Powell's praise for this accord was gratifying, but more American voices are needed to ensure that progress continues," they said.
While recognizing the importance of the international community's interest in the initiative, the authors said: "It is even more important, in our view, that the Bush administration and the (US) Congress support our efforts and re-engage in the peace process."
The conflict claimed another life Tuesday when an armed Palestinian militant was killed during a pre-dawn incursion by Israeli troops into the West Bank town of Jenin, Palestinian security officials said.
The security services said Amjad Sadi, 28, of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was killed during an exchange of fire with troops who had moved into both Jenin and a nearby refugee camp seeking to arrest activists.
Meanwhile, the military wing of the hardline Palestinian Hamas movement urged its followers to "intensify attacks" against Israel in response to the killing of three of its members.
"We appeal to all our cells and to all the resistance groups to intensify the attacks against all Zionist targets and interests in response to the occupation crimes," the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said.
The statement came a day after the deaths of three of its followers during an Israeli army operation in Ramallah which the military said was designed to smash Hamas cells. A nine-year-old boy was also killed during the operation.
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