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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 16:53 GMT
Three Palestinian gunmen killed
Israeli troops
Israel says the men were trying to enter the country
Israeli troops killed three Palestinian gunmen near the Egyptian border on Wednesday as the European Union tried to build on a Saudi peace plan.

Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the clash, which occurred 10 km inside Israel, Israeli security sources said.

One of the dead Palestinians had explosives strapped to his body, Israel Radio said.

The latest violence came as EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana discussed a Middle East peace plan with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah.

Javier Solana
Javier Solana: Sharon "interested" in peace plan
Prince Abdullah told Mr Solana that he planned to present his peace proposals at next month's Arab summit.

The proposals offer Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab land.

A spokesman for Mr Solana said the prince had made it clear that he was determined to make the proposals a common Arab position.

International concern

After the talks, Saudi officials called for greater EU involvement in the Middle East peace process.

The search for ways to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence is also being debated by the United Nations, in a sign of growing international concern about the Middle East.

Mr Solana cut short his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories to discuss the plan in Saudi Arabia.

But an adviser to Prince Abdullah cautioned that the proposal was a vision and not a blueprint for borders.

"We are not in the real estate or zoning business," Adel al-Jubeir told the Associated Press news agency. "It's really up to Israel, the Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria to negotiate because it's their land."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, speaking during a visit to Paris, welcomed the initiative.

And Mr Solana said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had "expressed interest in having more information on the content of the idea."

Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Crown Prince Abdullah's peace proposal:
  • Israel should withdraw to pre-1967 borders and sign a peace deal with the Palestinians
  • In return, Arab states offer Israel full diplomatic relations, including security guarantees and trade relations
  • Initiative cautiously welcomed by Israel and the US

    See also:
      More detail on plan
      History in maps

  • Earlier on Wednesday, a Palestinian shot dead an Israeli man in an industrial area near Jerusalem.

    The killing happened hours after a 25-year-old Palestinian man was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops at the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus.

    Israeli and Palestinian security officials continued security talks in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

    UN debate

    The BBC's Greg Barrow at the United Nations in New York says that the security council is sending a signal that the international community is still engaged in the search for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

    But council members cannot agree on a unified approach.

    Yasser Arafat with his cabinet ministers
    Yasser Arafat has been kept at his headquarters

    A number of speakers supported the latest Saudi proposals - but other nations re-stated entrenched positions.

    Israel ruled out negotiations with the Palestinians until a complete cessation of violence while the Palestinian delegate urged the UN Security Council to increase pressure on Israel.

    The BBC's Barbara Plett
    "The Israeli's are encouraged by the initiative"
    Gideon Meir, Israeli foreign ministry
    "We welcome any peace initiative"
    See also:

    25 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Israeli president seeks Saudi talks
    26 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Pregnant women under fire
    26 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Israel jails dissenting soldiers
    27 Feb 02 | Middle East
    What is in the Saudi peace initiative?
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