'Road Map' Setback

Palestinians hold weapons, during a support demonstration for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City, Thursday, June 5, 2003. Hundreds of Palestinians waving Arafat posters marched through the streets of Gaza in support of the Palestinian leader, demanding that attempts to isolate him stop.
In a surprise move, the Islamic militant group Hamas said Friday it will not hold talks with the Palestinian prime minister on halting attacks on Israelis.

The Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, has been trying to persuade militant groups to end shooting and bombing attacks, and was to have held a new round of talks with leaders of Hamas and other militias this weekend.

A Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said Friday that the group has decided not to begin talks with Abbas, even though only a day earlier Hamas officials said they were ready to hear the prime minister's proposals, and Abbas had expressed optimism he could obtain a truce within a week.

Rantisi suggested that Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, made too many concessions to the Israelis in his speech at a Mideast summit held earlier this week in Jordan under the auspices of President Bush. At the summit, also attended by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Abbas called for an end to the "armed intefadeh," or uprising, against Israel.

"Abu Mazen closed the door to dialogue by himself," Rantisi told The Associated Press. "He committed himself in front of Bush and Sharon (to) what Palestinians refused."

Hamas' latest pronouncement is more in line with word out of the camp of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was kept from the U.S.-sponsored Mideast summit in Jordan. Arafat criticized the gathering and said Thursday that the Palestinians emerged without achievements.

Arafat said Abbas failed to win real commitments from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the summit.

"Unfortunately, the Israelis did not give anything. What does it mean to move a trailer here or there?" Arafat said, referring to Israeli outposts.

Arafat was also furious to see his deputy taking his place at center stage at the summit with President Bush and Sharon, a Palestinian official said Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Arafat, who has been confined by Israel to the West Bank for more than a year, was furthermore upset that Abbas did not mention the Israeli siege in his speech at Aqaba, the official said. Israel has indicated that if Arafat leaves the West Bank, he will not be allowed to return.

Despite attempts by the United States and Israel to sideline Arafat, Palestinian officials said he was playing a significant behind-the-scenes role in directing Abbas as he held talks with Bush and Mideast leaders.

As Israel took the first steps toward dismantling illegal settlements Thursday, about 40,000 settlers and their supporters also protested the "road map" peace plan and summit.

"They say it's a road map that will lead to peace but we know different," Moshe Ben Israel, a New Yorker who moved to the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuach, told CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. "It's a road map which if we listen to the dictates of the White House will lead us directly back to Auschwitz," the Nazi death camp.

About 100 outposts, consisting of a few mobile homes each, have been set up by settlers on West Bank hilltops in the past five years to thwart land-for-peace agreements. At Wednesday's summit in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba, under the auspices of President Bush, Sharon said he would start removing outposts, but did not say how many.

The peace plan calls for dismantling those established since March 2001, when Sharon took office. The Maariv daily on Thursday quoted Sharon as saying he had disagreements with the United States over the outposts.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met with army commanders Thursday to prepare for dismantling 12 to 15 settlement outposts in the West Bank, the Haaretz daily said. The ministry confirmed the meeting, but declined comment on what was discussed. The first outposts will be removed in the coming days, said Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Implementation of the so-called "road map" to Palestinian statehood by 2005 will be supervised by international monitors, with the United States taking the lead.

A contingent of 12 to 15 CIA and State Department officials was to arrive in the region by Friday, said Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath. The group will be headed by State Department official John S. Wolf, who has served in Australia, Vietnam, Greece and Pakistan. Wolf is assistant secretary for nonproliferation.

Opposition to the peace plan also was strong in Palestinian areas.

Leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad had previously accused Abbas of selling out. At Wednesday's summit, Abbas pledged to end the "armed intefadeh," renounced "terrorism against the Israelis wherever they might be" and alluded to the disarming of militants.

Despite their criticism, Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials had said Thursday they were willing to hear the prime minister's proposals, but insisted the groups would not lay down their arms. The militant groups have killed hundreds of Israelis in shootings and bombings in the past 32 months of fighting.