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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 19:42 GMT
Saudi plan spurs Mid-East diplomacy
Javier Solana
Solana: Presenting the plan will be 'no easy task'
The top US diplomat for the Middle East is visiting Saudi Arabia for talks on a new peace plan put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah.

It's for the Arab countries now to work on it (and) accept it in the summit. I hope that it will be unanimously accepted

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana
William Burns, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East affairs, will meet the prince and other Saudi officials.

US Government sources say CIA Director George Tenet is accompanying Mr Burns, who will return to Washington on Friday.

The White House has voiced support for the Saudi initiative, but cautioned that much more work is needed to achieve a peace settlement.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana discussed the plan on Thursday with King Abdullah in Jordan and President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Leaders 'positive'

Mr Solana said both leaders were positive about the plan, and added that he would discuss it with US officials in Washington next week.

Crown Prince Abdullah briefed him on it in Jeddah on Wednesday.

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

  • "This is an initiative that we from our side have supported," Mr Solana told the Associated Press news agency.

    "It's for the Arab countries now to work on it (and) accept it in the summit. I hope that it will be unanimously accepted."

    The crown prince aims to make it a pan-Arab initiative at an Arab League summit in Beirut next month, Mr Solana said.

    'No easy task'

    However, he warned in an interview with the US news channel CNN that presenting the plan to the Arab League would be "no easy task".

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

    Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has welcomed the initiative and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has also expressed interest.

    However, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Thursday rejected the initiative, saying the Palestinians could win victory by jihad, or holy war, without paying the price of "normalisation with the enemy".

    See also:

    28 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Israel targets refugee camps
    21 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Israelis look for key to peace
    27 Feb 02 | Media reports
    Saudi move stirs regional hopes
    27 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Protests over Israeli Arab MP's trial
    28 Feb 02 | Middle East
    Woman bomber attacks Israelis
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