U.S. Expands Envoy's Role on Gaza Issues

(Washington Post) Glenn Kessler - The White House has expanded the mandate of U.S. Gen. William Ward to mediate on security issues as Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip. Previously, Ward's role was limited to assisting the PA as it rebuilt its security forces. A senior U.S. official said the original goal was not to put Ward in the middle of the two sides, but with time running short before Israel leaves Gaza, a decision was made to direct Ward to take a much more active role in coordinating between the Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters Friday that he felt he had gone a long way toward rebutting assertions by Israeli officials that a letter from Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 had in effect given Israel guarantees on keeping settlements on the West Bank and on banning the return of Palestinian refugees. Abbas said the letter "perhaps was misunderstood" by the Israelis, since Bush said Thursday that such issues should be settled "as part of mutual agreement between the two sides. This is a solution which we accept."

2005-05-30 00:00:00

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