Palestinians, Israel Accept U.S. Ceasefire Plan

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – CIA Director George Tenet won Palestinian acceptance on Wednesday for a ``work plan'' already approved by Israel to end eight months of bloodshed.
``We have accepted the American document. Implementation will begin tomorrow,'' Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters after the U.S. spy chief held late-night talks on Tuesday with President Yasser Arafat in the West Bank.
``There will be a trilateral security meeting as well as a bilateral political meeting with the Americans.''
Israel had said earlier that it accepted the American's proposals for ending violence that began in September.
``The United States is pleased that a work plan has been accepted by both sides,'' a U.S. official said in Washington.
``Its purpose is to resume security cooperation, end the violence and restore the situation on the ground that existed before (the Palestinian uprising).''
Tenet, on the sixth day of a Middle East peace mission, met Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Arafat, Abed Rabbo said, provided the American with a letter detailing his objections to one element of Tenet's plan -- a buffer zone between Israeli and Palestinian forces.
Abed Rabbo said Tenet would now return to the United States, leaving other U.S. officials to put the plan into motion.
While Arafat and Tenet met, suspected Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a car near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank, killing a Greek monk, the Israeli army said. The car had Israeli license plates.
Official details of Tenet's blueprint were not released.
But Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said it called for an ``end to violence'' followed by a six-week cooling-off period.
Both sides say they see the proposals as a way to begin implementation of recommendations contained in a report by a committee led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell.
The Mitchell report calls for a cessation of violence followed by a cooling-off period and confidence-building moves, including a freeze on Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza, before talks on a full peace settlement resume.
``The Palestinian side did not sign this document (Tenet's plan) today,'' Abed Rabbo said. ``Palestinians will sign it only when the whole package on the Mitchell recommendations is agreed, foremost being a halt to all settlement activities. This paper is considered a working plan as part of a whole package.''
He said the Palestinians expected Washington to work toward lifting an Israeli blockade of Palestinian towns and moving Israeli troops back to positions held before the uprising.
Israel says violence must cease before it makes any moves.
As Tenet spoke with Arafat inside the Palestinian leader's headquarters, hundreds of Palestinians chanted outside that their uprising would go on: ``The Intifada will continue.''
``We came here to tell the director of the CIA, who came to save Sharon, get out of here. We tell Arafat to reject bowing to Tenet and to reject Tenet's proposals. Our resistance will continue until occupation ends,'' said Marwan Barghouthi, a leader of Arafat's Fatah movement.
At least 455 Palestinians, 111 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have died since Palestinians began the uprising after broad talks on an overall peace stalled.
Sharon, making a speech to business people on Tuesday, said he had decided to accept Tenet's plan and see if it would lead to a reduction in hostilities.
``I can't say I am enthusiastic about the plan, but on the whole we can work and move forward,'' Sharon said.
Gissin said Israel had accepted the proposal in order to begin implementing the Mitchell recommendations.
Political analysts said Arafat would have a hard time selling a cease-fire to his people without concrete Israeli steps, such as a lifting of the Israeli blockade and the repositioning of Israeli forces.
In his remarks to reporters, Abed Rabbo made no mention of what had been a key stumbling block -- Israel's demand that Arafat round up hundreds of militants it accuses of being responsible for violence against Israelis.
Palestinians said they would detain militants planning attacks but would not make mass arrests on the basis of an Israeli most-wanted list.
Tenet arrived in the area last week after a Palestinian suicide bombing killed 21 people, including the bomber, outside a Tel Aviv disco on June 1.
A day after the blast, Arafat -- under international pressure and threatened with powerful Israeli military retaliation -- offered a cease-fire.
Israeli officials have said the level of violence has since dropped in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but Israeli settlers are still coming under Palestinian attack.
Many Palestinians say it is legitimate to target settlers living on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

An Israeli soldier scuffles with a Palestinian driver who was not allowed to pass an army checkpoint near the West Bank town of Qalandia, on the main road connecting Jerusalem with Ramallah, June 12, 2001. Israel accepted U.S. CIA Director George Tenet's ceasefire plan to end more than eight months of violence with the Palestinians, an Israeli spokesman said. (Mahfouz Abu Turk/Reuters)

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