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World - AFP
Israel denies any linkage between Iraq war, Mideast peace blueprint
Sat Mar 29, 8:40 AM ET
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JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel denied any linkage between the war on Iraq (news - web sites), in which it said it is not participating, and the conflict with the Palestinians, while also offering eventual humanitarian aid to Baghdad.

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Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom said "we do not accept the link being made between the war and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We are not taking part in this war. When it is over and it is decided to begin (peace) talks, we are ready to do so."

Shalom was speaking to Israeli public radio from New York, where he met Friday with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) and said his country was prepared to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq.

"I proposed that Israel join in humanitarian measures that are taken and to provide all the aid that can avert the unnecessary suffering of the Iraqi people," he said.

"Once the war is over, and if we are asked for our help, we will provide it."

This could come in the form of food and medical supplies, Shalom said.

He was on the way to Washington where he was due to meet with US Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites), Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites).

He said he did not expect to be come under pressure from Washington over the proposed "roadmap" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The roadmap, drawn up by the diplomatic quartet of the United States, Russia, the United Nations (news - web sites) and the European Union (news - web sites), lays out steps to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and create a Palestinian state by 2005.

President Geroge W. Bush repeated on Thursday that the United States would "soon" publish the roadmap.

Bush had said on March 14 that the quartet would publish the roadmap after a Palestinian prime minister with real powers took office.

Five days later, reformist Mahmud Abbas, Yasser Arafat (news - web sites)'s second-in-command of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, agreed to become the first Palestinian prime minister.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat this week urged Bush to finally publish the plan, pointing out that it had already been put back six times.

"I don't know what pretext he could find for putting it off a seventh time," Erakat said.

Shalom told Israeli radio from New York that relations between Israel and the United States "have never been as good and as warm," adding that "in the fight against terrorism" there were good and bad and that "the United States clearly considers that we are on the good side."

Israel was outraged this week when British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the West was guilty of "double standards" in demanding the enforcement of UN resolutions in relation to Iraq, but not in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Shalom also welcomed the appointment as Mahmud Abbas. He said Abbas's first job once had formed a government would be to stop "terrorism".

 

"We will try to exploit every path that could lead us to restarting negotiations with the Palestinians. But to get there terrorism must stop," he said.

Arafat, whose replacement was demanded by Israel and the United States, was under huge pressure to name a power-sharing prime minister to curb his autocratic rule, but Palestinian reformers say the initiative to democratise was theirs.

Abbas on Friday travelled to the Gaza Strip (news - web sites) to meet with Arafat's Fatah (news - web sites) movement as part of his ongoing negotiations to form a government, Fatah sources said.

Hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Gaza City Saturday to denounce the US-led war on Iraq and show support for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).


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