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Mideast Plan Gets Off To Bumpy Start

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
International mediators presented a long-awaited Mideast peace plan Wednesday, just hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in and after a suicide bomber linked to Abbas' political party killed himself and three others at a Tel Aviv bar.

U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer presented the plan to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the prime minister's Jerusalem home, Israeli diplomatic sources said, and representatives of the four parties in the "Quartet" of Mideast mediators delivered it to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The so-called "road map" to peace was drafted by the Quartet, made up of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

The attack targeted the trendy Tel Aviv beachfront near the U.S. embassy, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger, turning a cafe into a wreck of broken glass and furniture. Pools of blood covered the sidewalk. Three people plus the bomber were killed and dozens injured, but it could have been much worse: a security guard prevented the bomber from entering the restaurant, where the casualty toll would have been much higher.

"No road map or no plan can go forward as long as there isn't a clear-cut and definite action on the part of the new Palestinian prime minister to put an end to violence and terror," said government spokesman Jonathan Peled.

That was what Abbas vowed to do after winning confirmation Tuesday hours before the attack.

"There's no room for weapons except in the hands of the government," he said. "The armed chaos must end."

"This is the first test of the new Palestinian government and so far it is an utter failure," said Israeli spokesman Dore Gold.

Arriving at the West Bank headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ahead of his swearing-in ceremony, Abbas said, "We condemn this attack strongly."

The peace plan calls for an immediate cease-fire, a crackdown on Palestinian militants, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements erected 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.

"We've made our observations known to the United States as to how we view the road map," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Sofer told The Associated Press.

"It is crucial that we do not ... talk peace by day and have Israelis blown up by night," he said. "We call on the new Palestinian prime minister to implement in practice what he has preached in public."

A militant group tied to Abbas' own Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the attack, along with the violent Islamic Hamas. A spokesman for the Fatah-linked militia, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, told The Associated Press the bombing was a message to the new prime minister that "nobody can disarm the resistance movements without a political solution."

The bombing underscored the difficulties Abbas will face in disarming Palestinian militias — a key obligation in the first stage of the three-phase "road map" to Palestinian statehood.

In his speech to the Palestinian parliament Tuesday, Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, hinted at a future crackdown on militias, saying that "the unauthorized possession of weapons ... is a major concern that will be relentlessly addressed."

A Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, said the group would "never drop its weapons and will not allow anyone to disarm it."

Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh said the bombing indicated that "there are still many factions within the PLO and the Fatah that are interested in continuing the attacks. ... As long as Abu Mazen is in his position but Arafat continues to go behind his back and encourages the terror, we will not see a change."

The United States and Israel have been boycotting Arafat, whom they accuse of abetting terrorism, and have welcomed the appointment of Abbas, who has criticized the 31-month violent uprising.

The bomber, who the Al Aqsa spokesman said came from the West Bank town of Tulkarem, struck on Tel Aviv's seaside promenade about 1 a.m. local time, blowing himself up outside "Mike's Place," a pub popular with foreigners and just a few yards from the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy.

A security guard stopped the bomber at the entrance to the crowded pub. The guard was badly wounded.

The pub's owner, Gal Ganzman, his shirt covered with blood, said he was standing behind the bar when he heard the explosion. "I'm alive, I'm fine," he said.

Twenty people remained hospitalized Wednesday, including six in serious condition.

Since violence erupted on September 2000, 2,287 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 763 people on the Israeli side.