US holds final talks on Mideast peace plan

 

The US administration has held final consultations with Middle East leaders as President George W. Bush prepared a peace initiative based on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Secretary of State Mr Colin Powell had separate talks with Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Palestinian negotiator Mr Nabil Shaath amid reports that Mr Bush was planning to make peace proposals, probably next week.

In parallel, Middle East specialists from the "quartet" - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - met at the State Department to work on their proposal for a Middle East peace conference this summer.

Mr Shaath told reporters Mr Powell listened to the Palestinian view that a state should be based on Israel's borders before the 1967 war but did not indicate what Mr Bush would decide.

Mr Shaath said he told Mr Powell the Palestinians wanted a fixed two-year timetable for setting up a Palestinian state - a year for negotiations and a year for implementing agreements.

Mr Bush is preparing to unveil, most likely next week, a set of principles aimed at improving security to end Palestinian attacks against Israeli targets, rebuilding Palestinian institutions to establish a Palestinian state and reviving political talks between Israel and the Palestinians.