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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 December, 2004, 20:02 GMT
Mid-East peace claims 'premature'
Israeli border guard shoots rubber bullets during clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank village of Budrus, 7 December 2004
Egyptian reports said Israel and the Palestinians would agree a ceasefire
Israel has dismissed claims it has reached understanding on a peace plan with the Palestinians as premature, despite reports from Egyptian sources.

Egypt's state-run news agency Mena said on Tuesday that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed in principle to steps that would end their conflict.

But a senior official for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said it was too early to say a deal had been reached.

He conceded the Israelis would respond positively if militants ceased attacks.

Key players

The official told Reuters news agency: "There are a few correct elements but it's a little premature to say there's an agreement.

"We will respond positively if on the other side there will be arrangements for a ceasefire, a cessation of hostilities."

Mena had quoted unidentified senior Egyptian sources as saying the key players in the Middle East had reached an understanding on a plan for a comprehensive settlement.

Mena said the "framework for the plan has effectively been established... and discussions are under way to agree clearly on the points to be included".

Its report said the steps, including an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, had the support of both the US and the European Union.

The agency said officials expected "preparations [for a plan of action] would take place until July, after which political action will begin".

This could be followed by an "important political conference in Washington", the agency added.

The Palestinians and Egypt have not made an official response to Mena's report.




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