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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Analysis: Discord among Mid-East Quartet
From left, Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the UN's Kofi Annan and Per Stig Moeller of the EU
Quartet leaders are trying to reach a consensus

The meeting of the Madrid Quartet in New York revealed serious rifts - but at the same time a concerted effort to paper them over.

Senior diplomats from the US, the UN, Russia and the European Union have been trying to come up with a common approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Americans are supporting the Israeli view that progress on security must come first.

Ambushed bus on West Bank
The US and Israel want Palestinian attacks to stop
They say the Palestinians must prevent the sort of attack which occurred on Tuesday against Jewish settlers.

However, the other three members of the quartet want simultaneous progress on political and humanitarian issues.

Politically they want to give the Palestinians hope that talk of a Palestinian state is not mere rhetoric.

On the humanitarian front, they want to ease the hardship caused by Israel's re-occupation of seven of the main Palestinian towns.

An effort is under way to find a compromise on the future of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Under a German proposal, he would acquire a purely ceremonial role and hand over power to a new prime minister.

Palestinian resentment

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he is ready to consider the idea.

Those who have watched Mr Arafat's long career find it hard to envisage him taking a back-seat.

Moreover, Palestinians resent the idea that their leaders should be chosen for them.

However, if the European Union - and perhaps, privately, some of the Arab countries - are distancing themselves from Mr Arafat, then this leaves him seriously weakened.


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