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Middle East Quartet Says Peace Plan Not Yet Ready - 2002-12-20


U-S President George Bush has again stressed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while saying that an international peace plan is not yet ready for release.

Mr. Bush spoke at the White House following a day of meetings with the Quartet of Middle East Mediators, that also includes the United Nations, European Union and Russia.

President Bush said the peace plan for the region -- which he refers to as a "roadmap" -- is not yet finished, but that he is committed to its completion. He said earlier this week that publication of the plan is not likely until after Israel's parliamentary elections on January 28th.

President Bush said the roadmap for peace is a way forward, to bring people together to share responsibility. He stressed that all nations must be committed to its completion and implementation in the name of peace.

U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan said the group of four is close to finalizing and releasing the plan. But he stressed that implementation within the three-year framework will involve sacrifices by both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Also present at Friday's meetings were U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell, E-U President Per Stig Moeller and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says his cabinet will decide by Sunday whether to postpone Palestinian elections until after an Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank.

The elections are currently scheduled for January 20th, but the Palestinian Election Committee has recommended they be postponed, saying the Israeli occupation is making election preparations too difficult.

And in the Gaza Strip, violence claimed the lives of three people today (Friday). Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli settler, and Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinian men during a military operation.

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