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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 20:32 GMT 21:32 UK
US envoy on Mid-East peace push
William Burns with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher
Burns (left) met the Egyptian foreign minister
US Middle East envoy William Burns has begun a new tour of the region, as Washington launches a new effort to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.


It's impossible to foresee lasting progress on security without a restoration of political hope

William Burns
Shortly after Mr Burns' arrival in Egypt - his first stop - he said the US administration was committed to "a comprehensive strategy" for dealing with the crisis in the Middle East.

His tour will also to take in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon.

On Tuesday, US officials suggested the administration was considering putting forward a timetable for Middle East peace talks and even a new peace plan.

Triple aim

In Cairo, Mr Burns met the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher.

Israeli policeman searching after Petah Tikva blast
The latest suicide attack killed two Israelis
Afterwards, the envoy told reporters that the US strategy for the Middle East involved "movement on three tracks".

The first track was to renew a "serious political process aimed at the two-states solution," Mr Burns said.

President Bush has outlined a vision of two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli, living side by side in peace and security.

The second track, Mr Burns went on, involved backing Palestinian efforts to "build strong institutions in preparation for statehood."

He said the third track - stopping Palestinian militants attacking Israel - was the task of Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, who is due to travel to the region on Friday.

"It's impossible to foresee lasting progress on security without a restoration of political hope and impossible for me to foresee progress in the political process without security," Mr Burns said.

No deadlines

On Thursday, Mr Burns is expected to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

President Mubarak is due to travel to Camp David early next month, for talks with Bush on the Middle East.

"This visit is going to be extremely important because the partnership between the United States and Egypt has been crucial (to) diplomatic progress in the past and I'm convinced it's going to be equally important now," Mr Burns said.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Colin 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 yet "prepared to table an American plan with specific deadlines."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"US envoys are heading back to the Middle East"
The BBC's Claire Marshall
"The international community is loosing patience"

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28 May 02 | Middle East
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21 May 01 | Middle East
29 May 02 | Middle East
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