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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
US weighs push for Mid-East peace
Colin Powell speaks in Ramallah
US policy has stalled since Powell's last peace mission
The United States administration is considering putting forward a timetable for Middle East peace talks and even a new peace plan, White House sources say.

The move would indicate a much deeper engagement than the more distanced stance taken by the US in recent months.


We are sorting out for ourselves what would be appropriate for us to say about the endgame and the best time to say something about it

Bush administration official

However US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said on Tuesday that timetables for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were not the administration's immediate concern.

On Tuesday evening, three Israelis, said to be teenagers, were killed by a Palestinian gunman in the Jewish settlement of Itamar near Nablus in the West Bank.

In an earlier incident, an Israeli motorist was shot and killed, also in the West Bank. Another man travelling with him was wounded.

Residents of the nearby Jewish settlement of Ofra said Palestinian gunmen had opened fire on their car.

Internal debate

Mr Powell announced that US envoy William Burns would travel to the region shortly for talks and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) George Tenet was expected to join him there on Friday.

Mr Powell said the US administration was committed to a meeting of foreign ministers in the coming months, to pull together the threads of a peace proposals put forward by interested parties.

But he said Washington was not "prepared to table an American plan with specific deadlines."

Palestinians burn US and Israeli flags
US policy has angered Palestinians
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says the White House is trying to clarify its approach on the region before an expected visit by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in June.

Arab leaders have been pressuring America to become more involved in the region but a US-imposed schedule is thought to be opposed by Israel.

However, the handling of any new policy is reported to be the subject of lively internal debate.

"We are sorting out for ourselves what would be appropriate for us to say about the endgame and the best time to say something about it," an administration official was quoted by the Washington Post as saying.

Bloodshed

President Bush, speaking in Rome, condemned the latest Palestinian suicide attack in Israel - but he said violence would not stop the United States from pushing for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli policeman searching after Petah Tikva blast
Two Israelis died in the Petah Tikva explosion
In the attack, on Monday, a bomber killed himself and two Israelis - including a small child - in the town of Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv.

In response, the Israeli army moved into Jenin and arrested a number of Palestinian militants, including a local commander of the militant group Hamas.

Israeli tanks, supported by helicopters, entered the town early on Tuesday, sparking clashes with Palestinian gunmen, according to local witnesses. One Palestinian was killed in the exchange of fire.

The army pulled out of Jenin around noon, but made further arrests in another sweep through Bethlehem.


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28 May 02 | Middle East
27 May 02 | Middle East
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