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April 02, 2003

Israel puts Palestinian PM on notice

WASHINGTON: Israel said on Monday it would give the Palestinian prime minister-designate, Mahmoud Abbas, one or two months to show whether his new government can stop Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

During that period, Israel expects Abbas to crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the militant Islamist groups behind many of the attacks inside Israel, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom of Israel said in Washington.

If Abbas fails, then progress in any peace talks with the Palestinians will not be possible, he said. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has named Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, to the new post of prime minister and asked him to form a government. When the Palestinian legislature approves the government, the United States will release a long-awaited peace plan to the Israelis and Palestinians.

Shalom, speaking after lunch with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, said: “If Abu Mazen will not take the right measures against terror when he comes to office in his first or second months, he won’t be able to do it after it.

“It will be very important for him and for the future of the region that he will take those measures against the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organizations when he comes to office,” Shalom said. “You have to understand that we won’t be able to go forward and to get progress unless the terror relents.”

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in early 2001. President Bush’s peace plan, known as the “road map,” is meant to end the violence and break the negotiating deadlock.

The United States says it does not want Israelis and Palestinians to renegotiate the plan but rather to start to carry out the practical steps that the plan contains.

Shalom did not say whether Israel would seek amendments, but he endorsed the plan’s ultimate goal of a peace agreement between Israel and a new Palestinian state.

“We are adopting the vision of President Bush,” he said. “And anything that will be a genuine, accurate reflection of this vision will be something that we will be able to work with.”

Shalom spoke to the main pro-Israeli lobbying organization Sunday evening and had talks on Monday morning with Vice President Dick Cheney and White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.