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Rice fails to win Israel pledge to ease Palestinian restrictions
Cat : Axe of Evil
Date : 2006-10-05 18:20:15                      Reader : 358
If all this humiliation with resistance still existing, what will happen tomorrow if Palestinians abandon resistance. Sure they will be kicked out of their country for sake of Great Israel.


Associated France Press (AFP) 5/10/2006

Rice fails to win Israel pledge to ease Palestinian restrictions


by Sylvie Lanteaume

JERUSALEM (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to secure a pledge from Israel to ease restrictions on the beleaguered Palestinian territories as she ended a visit aimed at breathing life into the moribund Middle East peace process.

Washington's top diplomat left Israel on Thursday without making any public statement following meetings with her Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

She had been expected to announce "progress" on Israeli restrictions on crossings into the Gaza Strip at the tail end of her trip, aimed in part at boosting moderate Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas in the face of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement, branded a terrorist organisation by the West.

"We hope to make some progress on the access and movements issues," a senior State Department official had said after Rice met Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over dinner Wednesday.

The premier told Rice that Karni, the main crossing point for the transit of goods between Gaza and Israel, would reopen shortly and that Peretz would brief her on the details, said a government statement.

But Peretz made no announcement on the crossing in comments following his meeting with Rice, in an apparent sign that no firm agreement had been reached.

Karni has been closed since August 15, affecting Gaza's vital supplies of food, medicines and fuel in a territory where living standards have plummeted owing to aid boycotts and Israel's bombing of the only power station in June.

A senior Israeli security official had said Wednesday that Peretz would present Rice with options for reopening Karni as well as the Rafah crossing in the south, Gaza's only border point that bypasses Israel.

The Rafah terminal has been closed almost continuously since Israel launched a massive offensive on Gaza in late June aiming to recover a soldier abducted by militants. It was reopened on Wednesday and Thursday.

During her dinner with Olmert, Rice also failed to get Israel to agree to release customs duties collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority that the Jewish state has been withholding since before Hamas took office.

"(Olmert) said that Israel would present ideas on humanitarian assistance, such as aid to hospitals, medicines, etc," said a statement from his office.

According to the World Bank, the customs duties amounted to 65 million dollars a month in 2005, or two-thirds of the Palestinian government's budget.

The withholding of the revenue, along with a Western freeze on direct aid since Hamas took office, has wrought havoc on the Palestinian territories, prompting warnings from the United Nations of a humanitarian disaster.

On Wednesday, Rice met with Abbas in Ramallah, where the duo presented a united front, saying any Palestinian government should respect the peace principles set out by the so-called Middle East quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations.

After meeting Abbas on the third leg of a Middle East tour aimed at bolstering "moderate" Arab leaders and reviving the moribund peace process, Rice said the Palestinians should be served by a government "that observes the quartet principles and that can form the basis then for movement forward on what we all desire.

Abbas, locked in a standoff with Hamas over a platform for a national unity government, said any future cabinet would have to abide by past peace deals -- one of the key Western demands to which Hamas refuses to accede.

He reiterated that stalled talks with Hamas on forming a unity government could not go on forever and warned that "the Palestinian leadership will decide on the measures to take to get us out of this crisis."

The quartet, which has boycotted the Hamas government, demands that any new cabinet recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past peace deals as a condition for renewing aid.

Hamas has so far refused immense pressure to soften its stance and prime minister Ismail Haniya accused Washington of being interested only in reshaping the region to fit its interests.

As part of its efforts to boost Abbas, Washington is backing an international plan to boost the Palestinian presidential guard from 3,500 to 6,000 men, the senior State Department official said.

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