IN THE NEWS #473 - Bush/Sharon Talks

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

This week, President Bush told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that the United States will not try to force peace on the Israelis and Palestinians.Mr. Bush also ended the American Central Intelligence Agency's involvement with Israeli and Palestinian security services. A National Security Council spokeswoman says the move is part of the adminstration's plan to urge direct talks between the Israel and the Palestinians. Experts say the decision is a sign that the Bush administration will not be as intensely involved as the Clinton administration was in peace efforts.

In Washington this week, Mr. Bush and Mr. Sharon discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of the most troubling issues in the Middle East. Mr. Bush promised to work to bring together all nations responsible for peace in the Middle East. But he said the United States would not try to force peace on the Israelis and Palestinians.

Mr. Sharon said the Israeli government wants peace. He said, however, that serious negotiations could not start until the current violence decreases in the Palestinian territories. Israeli officials say the violence is planned. They say Mr. Arafat is using his security forces to attack Israelis.

More than four-hundred-thirty people have died in violence in the West Bank and Gaza in the past six months. Most of them were Palestinians.

A top American official said President Bush agreed with Mr. Sharon that violence had to halt before peace negotiations could begin again.But the Bush administration also says the Israeli government should ease travel restrictions on Palestinians that are causing severe economic problems.Israel says the restrictions are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.

Tensions are expected to increase because of Israel's plans to expand Jewish settlements in Jerusalem. The Bush administration has criticized Israel for its actions, saying it harms peace efforts. Mr. Sharon has promised not to begin any new settlements. Yet he says he will not stop expansion of existing ones. Palestinians say the expansion is Israel's effort to claim more Palestinian land.

An investigating committee of the United Nations Human Rights Commission released a report Wednesday. It called on Israel to end its closure of Palestinian territories. The report said Israel has used unnecessary force dealing with the Palestinian uprising.

Another international committee investigating Israeli and Palestinian violence says the situation in the Middle East is urgent. The head of the committee, former Senator George Mitchell, appealed this week for peace talks to re-open.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

Voice of America Special English