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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
US plans Mid-East 'roadmap'
Palestinian boy throws stones at Israeli bulldozer in Rafah refugee camp
The US hopes for a final cessation to the violence

Senior US State Department official William Burns is due to begin a visit to the Middle East designed to review efforts to end Israeli-Palestinian violence.

William Burns
Burns' trip is aimed at reassuring America's nervous Arab allies
Mr Burns is to visit a dozen countries over the next two weeks.

He is to discuss what is being called a "roadmap", which would lead from a cessation of violence to a final peace settlement.

Mr Burns will find himself in a region that, for the most part, is sceptical about the chances of reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process, and fearful about the prospect of a new war against Iraq.

Arab anxieties

The roadmap he is carrying in his briefcase is designed to reassure Washington's Arab allies that the Israeli-Palestinian issue has not been forgotten - and indeed that there is an international consensus over the way forward.

The roadmap has been drawn up by the quartet - a group of diplomats from the US, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union - and is supposed to lead to a peace settlement, with a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, in three years' time.

But neither side seems to believe this will actually happen.

The Israeli Government comforts itself with the knowledge that, under the plan, the Palestinians must first end their attacks against Israelis and reform their administration.

The Palestinians see this as a pretext for Israeli inaction.

So for the moment the roadmap exists only on paper - the violence goes on - and Mr Burns may find that, rather than swallowing his reassurances about the efforts of the quartet, his Arab hosts are likely to rehearse their anxieties over US plans for Iraq.


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