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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Straw backs Bush peace plan
Palestinians watch the Bush speech
Palestinians for the most part have reacted negatively
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he "greatly welcomes" US President George Bush's blueprint for peace in the Middle East.


Both parties have a duty to take up President Bush's initiative

Jack Straw

Mr Straw said he recognised there were some "uncomfortable messages" in Mr Bush's plan for the Palestine authority.

But he denied Mr Bush had specifically called for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to be removed from office.

And he backed calls for new elections in the area, stressing the need for the Palestinian people to choose their own leaders.

Above all, Mr Straw said, there had to be an end to both Palestinian suicide bombings and incursions by Israel, and Israel's closure of occupied territories.

Mr Straw said the UK would do all it could to "assist this process started by President Bush".

But he added: "Both parties have a duty to take up President Bush's initiative. There is no other way forward."

Peace conference

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram welcomed Mr Bush's plan as a "helpful framework in which to take the peace process forward".


When the Palestinians have new leaders, institutions and security arrangements, the US will support the creation of a Palestinian state

George W Bush

He also welcomed the "much-needed American engagement in this troubled issue" and said he shared Mr Bush's vision of "two states living side by side in peace and security".

But Menzies Campbell, for the Liberal Democrats, said he was "disappointed" by President Bush's speech and called for an international peace conference on the Middle East.

Mr Straw said there was no point in holding a peace conference without a clear chance of it achieving success.

'Compromised by terror'

In a speech on Monday, Mr Bush said the Palestinian people needed leaders who were not "compromised by terror".

He said peace required a "new and different Palestinian leadership" which could lead the Palestinians to their own state.

"If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on America's support for creation of a provisional state of Palestine," he said.
President Bush
Bush says a new leader is a necessity

But Mr Bush said US support for provisional Palestinian statehood would only come after the Palestinians elected new leaders, built new institutions and new security arrangements to protect Israel from terrorist attacks.

Officials in Washington said that if Mr Bush's conditions were met, a provisional Palestinian state could be established in 18 months and then made permanent in about three years as part of a final Middle East settlement.

Mr Bush also called for the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories.

'Strategy of terror'

Yasser Arafat has brushed off Mr Bush's call for the Palestinians to find a new leader.

He insisted that he had been democratically elected and pledged to pursue reforms and to hold elections early next year.


We have always said it is for the Palestinian people to choose their own leader

Downing Street

Israel, for its part, welcomed the latest US intervention.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: "When they chose Arafat, they chose a strategy of terror, and they chose to continue sending suicide bombers to Israel."

Within hours of Mr Bush's speech Israeli tanks rolled into Hebron, sparking clashes in which at least three Palestinian policemen were killed.

Earlier, Tony Blair's official spokesman said the UK prime minister believed the Palestinian people had been "let down" by Mr Arafat.

But he added: "We have always said it is for the Palestinian people to choose their own leader."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"Bush is waiting for a sign of calm"
Dore Gold, Israeli government spokesman
"Peace and terrorism cannot co-exist"
Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian Legislative Council
"This is an almost impossible precondition"

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See also:

25 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Middle East
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
23 Jun 02 | Middle East
21 Jun 02 | Middle East
20 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Jun 02 | Middle East
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