Fresh Diplomatic Flurry For Mideast Peace

Also attending the meeting were Mohammed Dahlan, Palestinian state minister for security affairs, and Amin al-Hindi, intelligence chief.

Wolf was named by U.S. President George W. Bush to head a 12-member U.S. team monitoring implementation of the internationally-drafted roadmap, envisaging the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

To Washington

On another front, the chief of Israel’s internal security service and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff were both in Washington to expound their government’s stance vis-à-vis Hamas, according to news reports.

Avi Dichter, who heads the Shin Beth security service, is to voice Israel’s concerns over any temporary truce that might be declared by Hamas, which is responsible for most of the anti-Israeli attacks in the 32-month-old Intifada, the Israeli Maariv daily said.

Sharon’s chief of staff Dov Weissglas was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Israeli public radio reported, without elaborating.

Israel is against any temporary ceasefire, claiming Palestinian groups would only use it to regroup and rearm.

Sharon ruled out on Monday, June 17, any progress with the Palestinians until they have someone "willing or able" to bring a halt to attacks on Israel.

On the same day, Palestinian factions meeting with an Egyptian security delegation announced that no agreement on a draft truce has been reached.

But the official Egyptian Middle East News Agency (MENA) said talks are to resume in Cairo to end the surge of violence over the last week that claimed the lives of 50 people and left scores injured.

The resumption sends a positive signal that the Egyptian delegation had found a common ground with Palestinian factions in a series of talks in Gaza over the last two days.

"We are very hopeful that we will be able to reach a situation where we put an end to the cycle of violence," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting with EU counterparts in Luxembourg.

He said talks between different groups including Hamas were only "one of the phases, not the first phase, not the last phase, of an ongoing negotiation."

New Talks

In a fresh step further, Palestinian and Israeli officials said they plan to hold a new round of talks on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the Gaza Strip and the transfer of authority to the Palestinians.

Palestinian sources said discussions would be held Tuesday evening with Dahlan and General Abd el-Razaq al-Majaida, head of public security in the Gaza Strip, taking part.

An official with Israel’s defense ministry, who asked not to be named, was vaguer on the date.

He said a meeting with Dahlan "is scheduled for the coming days … but nothing is planned for today."

Both sides have said they were near an agreement on a partial Israeli pullout from Gaza and perhaps the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

The Palestinians have said they were ready to take over security responsibility in any areas evacuated by Israeli forces.

Gilad was reported to have offered the withdrawals in return for a commitment by Dahlan to preventing Palestinian groups from launching anti-Israeli rocket attacks from Gaza.

Abbas was to meet later Tuesday with leaders of Hamas and other groups after conferring with Wolf.


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