> >Israel, Palestinians to announce cease-fire

: Israel, Palestinians to announce cease-fire

: Israel, Palestinians to announce cease-fire.


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will announce a cease-fire at a summit Tuesday in Egypt, Israeli and Palestinian officials said Monday.

Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said Palestinians will declare an end to "violence, terrorism and incitement" against Israel.

In return, Gissin said, Israel will refrain from military action "to the extent that the Palestinians will fulfill their pledges and their commitments."

"It will be their responsibility to stop terrorists," Gissin said. "To the extent that will be fulfilled, we can move forward."

Gissin said the cease-fire declaration was being reviewed "in minute detail."

Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erakat said Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed to revive committees set up to deal with prisoners, the redeployment of troops, Palestinian fugitives and deportees.

In the weeks since Abbas was elected to replace the late Yasser Arafat, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have taken confidence-building steps regarding security, Palestinian prisoners and a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Items that will be taken up at the summit include the status of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and the West Bank barrier under construction by Israel, Erakat said.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- after talks with Sharon and Abbas -- announced the two leaders have agreed to meet separately with President Bush in the spring.

"This is the most promising moment for progress between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years," Rice said. "I depart the region confident of the success of the meeting tomorrow between President Abbas and Prime Minster Sharon."

General has security mandate

Rice also announced Monday that U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Ward will act as a security coordinator and will visit the region in the next few weeks. Ward also will work on Mideast security issues with Egypt and Jordan, she said.

"Gen. Ward's mandate is on security, which after all, really has to get established and has to be moving forward in order for us to make progress," Rice said.

Ward's responsibilities will include helping the Palestinians train and equip their security forces. Among his duties, Rice said, would be monitoring compliance with Israeli and Palestinian security agreements.

"We are very clear that the parties need to live up to their obligations," she said. "We won't hesitate to say to the parties when those obligations aren't being met."

Abbas has deployed security forces within the Palestinian territories to prevent terrorist attacks, and Israeli officials have approved the release of some Palestinian prisoners.

"There's obviously more to do," Rice said. "The [Palestinian] forces need to be really active in fighting terrorism -- really active in fighting the infrastructure so that terrorist acts cannot continue. But it is an encouraging start and I'm sure that the prime minister and President Abbas will have further discussions."

Last week, an Israeli Cabinet committee approved an end to targeted killings of suspected Palestinian militants and a military withdrawal from five West Bank cities, sources in Sharons office said.

"I just can't emphasize enough how historic a decision that is, how fundamental a decision that is," Rice said. "With all of the going back and forth over the last 30-plus years, the return of territory is a major step forward and we shouldn't lose sight of that."

Bush 'impressed'

During his weekly Cabinet meeting on Monday, Bush said he looked forward to meeting with Sharon and the Palestinian leader. "I've been impressed by Prime Minister Abbas' commitment to fighting off terror," Bush said.

"I've also been impressed by the fact that Israel helped the Palestinians have an election, went out of their way to make sure that people were allowed to go to the polls."

A senior State Department official said future international meetings linked to the Mideast peace process are being discussed. Sponsors of the so-called Mideast road map -- the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union -- may gather soon, the senior State Department official said.

Rice is expected to attend a London conference March 1 hosted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Other road map sponsors may also attend with representatives of Japan, Canada, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the official said.

The road map calls for an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, followed by a "final and comprehensive" settlement of the conflict and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Rice arrived in Rome from Israel on Monday, where she will meet with senior Vatican officials and representatives of the Italian government.

On Tuesday, Rice will deliver a speech in Paris. After traveling to Belgium and Luxembourg, Rice is scheduled to return to Washington on Thursday.

U.S. funds for Palestinians

Rice came to the region after a request by Bush for Congress to provide the Palestinian Authority with $350 million in U.S. funds to help rebuild infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the Palestinian territories after four years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In addition, another $40 million would be "reprogrammed" from money already authorized for a desalination plant and used for immediate assistance in similar infrastructure programs, Rice said.

At an appearance Sunday with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Rice said: "There is a need to help the Palestinians with the development of the democratic institutions that will form the foundation of statehood to make certain that we are all doing what we can for peace."

Shalom said there is "a new opportunity that we are determined to seize," and called the upcoming summit "a very important event."



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