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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
New Mid-East peace plan launched
The scene of the blast
A fresh suicide attack has failed to stall moves towards peace

International mediators have presented their long-awaited "roadmap" to peace in the Middle East to both sides in the conflict.

Copies of the plan were delivered on Wednesday to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - whose appointment was a key step towards its launch.

It is intended to be a phase-by-phase route to ending conflict, and could lead to full Palestinian statehood as early as 2005.

A bomb attack in Tel Aviv in which three people were killed by a suicide bomber failed to delay its publication.

The "roadmap" was drafted by envoys from the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

ROADMAP MAIN POINTS
Phase 1 (to May 2003): End of terrorism, normalisation of Palestinian life and Palestinian political reform; Israeli withdrawal and end of settlement activity; Palestinian elections
Phase 2: (June-Dec 2003) Creation of an independent Palestinian state; international conference and international monitoring of compliance with roadmap
Phase 3 (2004-2005): Second international conference; permanent status agreement and end of conflict; agreement on final borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements; Arab states to agree to peace deals with Israel

It calls for an immediate ceasefire, a crackdown on Palestinian militants, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements erected since 2001.

BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says that even these initial confidence-building measures will prove difficult to implement.

Officials on both sides have reacted guardedly to the plan.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Sofer told the BBC: "Before anything can happen we are hoping and praying that Abu Mazen takes the bull by the horns and implements what he said he would... He has to really bring an end to terrorism."

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, for her part, urged the international community "to make sure that Israel complies by stopping this policy of assassinations, incursions, killings, home demolitions, land confiscations, expansion of settlements".

The Palestinian militant group Hamas rejected the "roadmap" outright.

"It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause," Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he did not underestimate the commitment that would be required to achieve peace, but he said the prize was enormous.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to discuss the "roadmap" with both Mr Abbas and Mr Sharon next week, during his first tour of the Middle East for more than a year.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, 29 April 2003

The release of the plan comes hours after the new Palestinian administration took office.

In his first policy speech on Tuesday, Mr Abbas - a critic of attacks against Israelis - pledged to control militant groups and illegal weapons.

The new cabinet is the result of intense international pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to give up some of his powers and implement democratic reforms.

Ministers include both critics of Mr Arafat and loyalists from his mainstream Fatah movement.

The US and Israel have refused to deal with Mr Arafat, who remains isolated in Ramallah by Israeli forces.

Cafe ripped apart

Israel said the Tel Aviv bombing of a seafront cafe at 0100 local time (2200 GMT Tuesday) showed the new administration's "complete failure" to get to grips with the security situation.

We saw fire coming out of the bar, people all burned up, running out
Bombing witness

Saeb Erekat, a member of Mr Abbas' new cabinet, condemned the attack but added: "The only way to stop... this cycle of violence is by reviving a meaningful peace process."

The bombing happened in a seafront area which is usually very busy at night.

Police say a Palestinian suicide bomber, who is among the dead, detonated the bomb at the entrance to Mike's Place, after failing to get past a security guard.

The front of the cafe was ripped apart by the blast and there was splintered wood and glass everywhere.

Two groups - Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Mr Arafat's Fatah movement - claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israeli intelligence sources told the BBC they believe the bomber had British nationality.




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The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"It's an ambitious plan"



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