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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
US backs Mid-East observers
Israeli tanks in the West Bank
Tanks have been redeployed as the violence worsens
Foreign ministers of the G8 countries, which include the United States, have said they back the deployment of outside monitors to help end Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Third-party monitoring accepted by both parties would serve their interests in implementing the Mitchell Report

G8 statement
Until now, the US had described the idea as premature.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his approval to a joint statement issued by the G-8 countries - the major Western industrialised nations plus Russia - which supports the deployment of foreign observers.

The deployment of monitors is a long standing demand of the Palestinians, but one that Israel has consistently rejected.

The G8 statement said outside observers would help implement the recommendations put forward by former US Senator George Mitchell, which the ministers called the only way "to break the deadlock" in the Middle East.

Pressure increased

BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says the G8 statement, issued after a two-day meeting in Rome, represents a sharp stepping up of the pressure on Israel.

Colin Powell
Powell - the Mitchell report is the only way forward
This week the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians reached a new and dangerous point, correspondents say.

On Tuesday and Wednesday there was a major redeployment of Israeli troops and tanks in the West Bank in an effort to prevent Palestinian attacks.

The troop moves followed several days of heavy violence.

Temple Mount

In a move likely to increase tensions, a group of influential rabbis in the Jewish settlements said they were overturning a previous religious ban on visits to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They called on rabbis to bring their communities to visit it, while urging the Israeli public to do the same.

The Rabbinical Council of Judea, Samaria and Gaza is asking its followers to go to the Temple Mount on a Jewish religious holiday on 29 July.

The BBC correspondent in Jerusalem, Paul Wood, says the security forces will try to stop such a move. But focusing attention on this most intractable of issues is sure to deepen the divisions in Israeli society and cause more Palestinian anger, he says.

Israel 'hostile'

The G8 statement made it clear the monitors would have to be approved by both Israel and the Palestinians.

"We believe that in these circumstances, third-party monitoring accepted by both parties would serve their interests in implementing the Mitchell Report," the statement said.

Ariel Sharon
Sharon - a fierce opponent of observers

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman ruled out the use of observers unless the violence ended.

"Observers or monitors are not acceptable to us for the simple reason that when there are observers deployed here, there has to be observance of the ceasefire, and unfortunately and regrettably I must say that the Palestinian Authority has not observed the ceasefire," Raanan Gissin told The Associated Press news agency.

Only one peace path

Mr Powell told journalists that the Mitchell report was the only available path to peace.

"We don't need a new way to get to negotiations," he said, insisting at the same time that there must first be an end to violence in the region.

Last month there were signs of confusion in the American administration over the issue of monitors.

Mr Powell said after meeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that there would be "a need for monitors, observers, to see what is happening on the ground".

But later the same day a White House spokesman denied Mr Powell was endorsing the Palestinian view, saying "There is no change in the United States' position".

The BBC's Barnaby Mason
"The monitors would in effect oversee the implementation of the Mitchell Report"
See also:

27 Jun 01 | Middle East
Arabs want US to push Israel
25 Jun 01 | Middle East
Greater Mid-East role urged for Europe
12 Jun 01 | Middle East
Hardliners disapprove of ceasefire plan
18 Jun 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Annan's Middle East progress
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