Peace process is near collapse, warns Albright

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The Independent Online
THE American special envoy, Dennis Ross, met Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime minister, last night to discuss the extent of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as Washington warned that the peace process was on the verge of collapse.

Israel has insisted that the withdrawal will comprise no more than 9 per cent of the West Bank's territory while the US wants 13.1 per cent. Even this is well short of the 30 per cent that the Palestinians expected under the terms of the Oslo agreement.

Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State, earlier told Jewish leaders in America that the peace process was on the verge of collapse and that the US was considering ending its efforts. However, no ultimatum would be given to Israel.

The US wants its 13.1 per cent withdrawal to take place linked to Palestinian guarantees over security. Mr Netanyahu has suggested a lower figure but says the land handed over would be contiguous to existing Palestinian enclaves on the West Bank.

The US has yet to publicise its initiative and Mr Netanyahu has asked it not to. Despite opposition from the extreme right to giving back any of the land Israel conquered in 1967, the prime minister could deliver an agreement.

An explosion rocked the West Bank town of Ramallah last night, reportedly killing two people and injuring others.

The explosion was close to the office of Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian official in charge of preventive security in the West Bank. The cause of the blast was not immediately known.