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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Israel to withdraw from four towns

August 16, 2003

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— Israel agreed Friday to withdraw from four more West Bank towns, ending weeks of deadlock with the Palestinians over security issues and putting a troubled U.S.-backed peace plan back on track.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan reached the deal at a time when the "road map" peace plan and a Mideast truce seemed in serious jeopardy because of renewed violence that included two Palestinian suicide bombings this week.

It was not clear just how much U.S. pressure helped end the dispute over who should make the next move under the peace plan: Israel, which is supposed to pull back from more areas of the West Bank; or the Palestinians, who must dismantle militant groups.

In Washington, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said further discussions of security between Israelis and Palestinians were a positive development.

Under the agreement reached Friday, Israel would withdraw from the West Bank towns of Jericho and Qalqiliya next week and remove some military roadblocks.

Taking down the roadblocks is seen as a major confidence booster. Israeli checkpoints, set up at the start of fighting nearly there years ago to keep out militants, have all but paralyzed life in the West Bank.

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