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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Mideast Meeting?

Aired May 23, 2003 - 20:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: In the 11:00 a.m. Eastern hour, some movement in the Mideast peace process, possibly paving the way for an important summit.
Our Kelly Wallace has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was only after a carefully negotiated U.S.-Israeli deal that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced he is prepared to accept the Mideast road map and seek a cabinet vote on the plan.

Israeli officials say they told the U.S. that Mr. Sharon could only accept the plan if Israel's concerns were taken into account. The Bush administration, in a public statement, saying it will fully and seriously address those concerns, then gave Israeli officials the guarantee they say they needed.

RA'ANAN GISSIN, SENIOR ADVISER TO SHARON: There are real concerns, and they are shared both by the Israeli government, as well as by the U.S. government.

WALLACE: Israel is asking for more than a dozen changes made to the road map and insists on an end to Palestinian terror attacks before Israel should be required to take significant steps, such as freezing settlement activity and pulling forces out of Palestinian towns.

Observers believe it came down to U.S. pressure on Mr. Sharon that led him to back a plan he has many concerns about.

CHEMI SHALEY, ISRAELI POLITICAL ANALYST: He was a bit surprised by the fact that the president is pressuring him to accept the road map. And though Prime Minister Sharon doesn't like the road map, he likes American pressure even less.

WALLACE: The new Palestinian government is cautiously optimistic.

NABIL AMR, PALESTINIAN MIN. OF INFO: We consider this Israeli position as a positive step in the right direction. We hope that Israel will shoulder its responsibilities according to this plan.

WALLACE: Prime Minister Abbas, who despite some reservations has accepted the road map, has demanded Israel's acceptance before taking steps such as trying to rein in radical Palestinian groups responsible for suicide bombings against Israelis.

Now, with Mr. Sharon's announcement, analysts believe there will be American pressure on the Palestinian prime minister, widely known as Abu Mazen, to deliver.

SHALEY: You will tell Abu Mazen you demanded that Sharon accept the road map. Now he has, and now it's your turn to act.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Mr. Sharon's announcement paves the way for a three-way summit soon, involving U.S. President Bush. Both sides believe the president's involvement pushed this road map back on track, after a wave of suicide bombings against Israelis. Now the question is, can Mr. Bush convince the two sides to take steps to really push this process forward -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Kelly Wallace, thank you so much for that.

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