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3 Dead In Tel Aviv Cafe Bombing

A wounded man is carried on a stretcher at the scene of a suicide bombing in a restaurant in Tel Aviv early Wednesday April 30, 2003. A huge explosion wrecked a Tel Aviv restaurant near the U.S. Embassy early Wednesday and police said it was a suicide bomb attack. Police said at least three people were killed, including the bomber. Rescue services said at least 46 people were hurt. (AP Photo/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi)
AP
A suicide attack on a Tel Aviv bar killed three people and injured at least 46 early Wednesday, hours after the Palestinian parliament approved a new prime minister - the last remaining obstacle for the launch of a U.S.-backed peace plan.

The bomb blew the front off the seafront bar and demolished walls, doors and furniture inside, police said. A witness told Army Radio that a security guard at the bar prevented the bomber from entering. The dead included the bomber. It was the 89th suicide attack in 2½ years of fighting.

The night spot features live music and stands on a promenade that runs for several miles along the Tel Aviv beach. The U.S. Embassy is nearby, but was not damaged and was apparently not a target.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but before the bombing, the Islamic militant movement Hamas warned it had no intention of disarming or ending attacks on Israelis. Abdel Aziz Rantisi said his group would "never drop its weapons and will not allow anyone to disarm it."

The Palestinian parliament's approval of Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister fulfilled the last condition for launching the "road map" to peace, a plan that holds the first real hope of ending Israeli-Palestinian fighting and renewing peace talks.

Terje Larsen, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah that the "road map" would be presented to Abbas at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Palestinian officials said Israel would also receive the plan Wednesday, although Israeli officials could not confirm that.

The confirmation was approved 51-18, with three abstentions.

But even as the lawmakers gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah to confirm Abbas' Cabinet, Israeli troops killed three militants and a bystander.

In his inaugural speech, Abbas pledged to disarm militias, a promise that could set up a violent showdown between the Palestinian Authority and militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Bush administration welcomed the approval of a new Palestinian leadership as a spur to peacemaking. "The president looks forward to working with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people as well as the Israeli government and the Israeli people to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell will go to the area to begin trying to advance Palestinian statehood once the newly confirmed cabinet begins its work.

In his first speech to parliament, Abbas stuck to traditional Palestinian positions toward Israel, but warned his people that "The unauthorized possession of weapons ... is a major concern that will be relentlessly addressed."

There would be "one authority, one law," he said.

But the task facing the 68-year-old premier, who despite a long career has little experience in the power politics of day-to-day government, appears overwhelming.

He'll have to keep at bay not just the Islamic militants but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who remains popular and retains some powers, including control of some security organizations.

The United States and Israel are eager to do business with Abbas, an outspoken opponent of violence. But the international support has hurt Abbas at home, with many Palestinians considering him a U.S. puppet.

The first stage of the "road map" calls for a cease-fire, a crackdown on Palestinian militias, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements built since 2001. A Palestinian state with provisional borders could be established by year's end and full statehood within three years, according to the timetable.

In his speech, Abbas affirmed his acceptance of the road map, but rejected changes demanded by Israel, saying: "The road map must be implemented, not negotiated."

Israel says Palestinians must stop all violence before it makes any peace moves.

Some opponents of the new government expressed concerns that a crackdown on militants might lead to civil war. Others feared that Abbas would make too many concessions to Israel.

Abbas, who favors suits and ties in contrast to Arafat's military dress, sat next to the Palestinian leader on a dais, facing a packed reception hall in Arafat's West Bank headquarters.

He said the Palestinians "will not accept anything less" than a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem, and a dismantling of all Jewish settlements.

For the 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants there should be a "fair and acceptable" solution, he said, but did not repeat standard Palestinian insistance on their right to reclaim land and homes they lost when Israel became a state in 1948.

In perhaps the strongest denunciation of terrorism by a senior Palestinian official, Abbas said: "We are convinced that such methods do not lend support to a just cause like ours, but rather destroy it." Arafat has condemned attacks on Israelis, but in ambiguous fashion, and Israel has accused him of encouraging, and even financing, attacks.

Addressing the Israelis, Abbas took a rarely heard conciliatory tone: "We do not ignore the suffering of the Jews throughout history." His aides said he added the sentence to the speech - delivered on Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day — because he felt stung by accusations that in his doctoral thesis in the 1970s, he diminished the scope of the Nazi genocide.

Israel said it would judge Abbas by his actions. "Any Palestinian government and any prime minister will be judged by two criteria — the extent to which he will execute the most urgent, necessary reforms in government and the extent to which he's going to perform the necessary steps to stop terrorism," said Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Gissin said Sharon was ready, in principle, to invite Abbas for talks in Jerusalem. The two have met repeatedly in the past.

In violence Tuesday, an Israeli helicopter gunship fired four missiles at a car in the Gaza Strip, killing Nidal Salama, a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small radical PLO faction, and a bystander. Troops in the West Bank fatally shot two members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militia linked to Arafat's Fatah movement.