Powell Reviews Unofficial Mideast Plan

The Israeli and Palestinian authors of a private Middle East peace plan presented their proposals to Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) on Friday but were unable to alter the Bush administration's approach to peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians.

"It was a very good meeting," Powell said. "We welcome other ideas."

However, Powell said, the U.S.-backed "road map" for peacemaking still had "primacy" in the effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

And a State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, said that blueprint, which would establish a Palestinian state in 2005, would not be altered as a result of Powell's meeting with former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin (search) and Yasser Abed Rabbo (search), his Palestinian negotiating partner.

Ereli also said there were no plans for a follow-up meeting, although contact at some level could not be ruled out.

Beilin and Abed Rabbo then went to New York to see U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search). who, like them, seeks an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.

After that meeting, Abed Rabbo said he and Beilin stressed in their meetings with both Powell and Annan that their peace plan was "complementary" to the Bush "road map" — not in conflict with it.

"We stick with the road map," Abed Rabbo said. "We consider the road map as the mother of all initiatives."

Annan echoed Powell's view that the "road map" remains "the key mechanism," said U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard. But he added the Beilin-Abed Rabbo peace plan "has achieve the important goal of stimulating debate among Palestinians and Israelis" on what must resolved.

The United Nations, along with the United States, the European Union and Russia, make up the so-called Quartet that sponsored the "road map."

Powell, meanwhile, conferred with King Abdullah (search) of Jordan, whose country is at peace with Israel and wants to see Israel negotiate terms with the Palestinians.

Describing their plan as an unprecedented "endgame" that complements, rather than conflicts with, the "road map," Beilin and Abed Rabbo, who is on the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, said the contacts with the Bush administration would continue.

"We were encouraged," Abed Rabbo told reporters. "This is a very encouraging beginning."

They talked with reporters after meeting with Powell for 20 to 25 minutes and then, for an hour, with Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and Elliott Abrams, who works on Middle East issues at the National Security Council.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search) was expected to have met with Beilin and Abed Rabbo, but Beilin said the meeting was postponed for scheduling reasons.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) has rejected the unofficial peace plan, and his government criticized Powell for meeting with the drafters.

"This is the only possible solution," Abed Rabbo said of the plan he negotiated with Beilin in Geneva with the support of the government of Switzerland and many world leaders, including former President Carter.

"The solution here satisfies the basic aspirations of the people on both sides," he said during a news conference at the State Department's front door.

The so-called Geneva Accords propose borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state close to Israel's borders as they existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. That would give the Palestinians almost all the West Bank and Gaza Strip and part of Jerusalem, all taken by Israel in that war.

The accords also would remove most Israeli settlements in those areas and severely limit the right of return for Palestinians who fled or were driven out during the 1948-49 war that followed Israel's creation and their descendants. It would divide sovereignty in Jerusalem as well.

In contrast, the U.S.-backed "road map" leaves open to negotiation the specific issues, such as borders, the Geneva pact deals with.

The Bush-backed plan has been stalled for weeks, due partly to differences on the best way to handle Palestinian terrorists. Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia also has threatened to call off the peace process officially unless the Israelis stop work on a security fence in Palestinian territory.

King Abdullah of Jordan, interviewed Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America," said the "road map" remains the only alternative for peace in the region for now.

"That articulates what is needed from the Arabs, from the Israelis, from the Palestinians to achieve a peace," said the king, who met Thursday with President Bush.

"What can be done at the moment is to make sure that the new Palestinian prime minister has the opportunity to be able to coordinate with his Israeli counterparts to be able to establish some understanding on the security issues which will then lead us back to the `road map,"' he said.

Powell said Thursday that the "road map" remains the U.S. plan but "as ideas emerge from whatever source, it seems not inappropriate to listen to the authors and proponents."

Bush showed guarded interest in the plan at the White House on Thursday but held firm to his own approach that calls for a democratic Palestinian state and the end of terror attacks against Israel.

"We appreciate people discussing peace," Bush said. "We just want to make sure people understand that the principles of peace are clear."