- (AFP) - An impatient President George W. Bush told Israel
to halt its incursions in Palestinian-ruled areas "now", after
it ignored his previous appeals and launched another West Bank security
- "(The) Israelis understand my position. I've been
very clear and there has been some progress, but it's now time to quit
it altogether; it's time to end this," Bush said, making his second
such appeal in two days.
- "We'll see what happens. I know they've heard us,"
Bush told reporters at his ranch, a day after discussing the Middle East
crisis with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
- Bush spoke amid signs of a rift within his foreign policy
team, as several State Department officials admitted privately they were
demoralized by administration infighting over the Middle East.
- Pressure from the White House meanwhile, prompted Congress
to delay legislation which branded Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a "terrorist"
after Bush aides it could hamper their peace efforts.
- Bush first called for an end to the incursions, which
Sharon's government says are targeting suicide bombers, on April 4, but
later said he was satisfied with Israel's limited withdrawal.
- The operation has besieged Arafat in his Ramallah compound
and trapped armed Palestinians in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.
- The White House said Friday that Crown Prince Abdullah
had presented Bush with an eight point list of Middle East peace objectives.
- The plan, which appears to be largely an amalgam of existing
US and Saudi proposals for ending the bloody Israel-Palestinian conflict,
- - An Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian-ruled areas
taken over in recent incursions;
- - A lifting of the Israeli siege of Ramallah;
- - The creation of a multinational peace force for the
- - The reconstruction of Palestinian infrastructure devastated
by the fighting;
- - Talks on US security plans, including the Tenet work
plan and the Mitchell plan;
- - The halting of Israeli settlement building;
- - A renunciation of violence by both sides;
- - A concerted US attempt to implement UN resolution 242
passed in 1967, which called for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab
- Earlier Friday, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke
to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone, his spokesman Richard
- The conversation centered on Israel's reluctance to let
a United Nations fact-finding team enter Jenin refugee camp where the Palestinians
claim a massacre took place.
- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed to an Israeli
request to delay the arrival of the mission until Sunday evening, a senior
UN official said Friday.
- Before Bush's appeal, Israeli troops pursued their nearly
month-old West Bank offensive, launching a pre-dawn incursion into the
city of Qalqilya, the army said.
- A local leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine (PFLP) was killed in the attack, Palestinian and Israeli sources
said. The Israeli army later pulled out of the city.
- The US House of Representatives meanwhile postponed a
vote on a resolution branding Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a terrorist,
under pressure from the Bush administration which judged it could hamper
its Middle East peace efforts.
- The move was ordered by Majority whip Tom Delay on Friday
after a call from the White House, his spokesman said.
- The bill states support for Israel and castigates Arafat,
accusing him of "ongoing support and coordination of terror, and doubts
he is still a "partner for peace."
- Whispers that the Bush administration is badly split
on Middle East policy earlier burst into the open, as several State Department
officials admitted to frustration
- "There is a feeling that we are directionless, and
that has created a lot of resentment and some anger," said one official,
referring to a "generally gloomy mood" at the State Department
as it battles the White House and Pentagon for control of Middle East policy.
- The crisis will top the agenda at a meeting of the Middle
East "quartet," which the State Department said Friday would
meet in Washington on May 2.
- The panel is made up of the United States, the European
Union, the United Nations and Russia.