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Latest from Haaretz--11/3/06

*Welch and Abrams demanding something from IAF? Negroponte meets with
Mossad chief? *
*The first puzzling, the second nightmarish. *


*Last update - 06:45 03/11/2006*
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*U.S. officials demand IAF cease overflights in Lebanese airspace*
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*By **Aluf Benn* <mailto:aluf@haaretz.co.il>*, Haaretz Correspondent and
Haaretz Service *
**
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*Two Bush administration officials demanded that Israel Air Force
overflights of Lebanon be halted, saying that such flights undermine the
standing of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The two U.S. diplomats, David Welch and Elliott Abrams, held short
meetings Thursday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister
Tzipi Livni.

The meeting with Olmert was dedicated to preparations for his visit to
the United States and his meeting with President George W. Bush in 10
days' time. *
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*A government source said that the two envoys did not put forth any new
diplomatic initiative on behalf of the Bush administration.

Olmert also met Thursday with visiting U.S. Director of National
Intelligence John Negroponte, who is in Israel as the guest of Mossad
chief Meir Dagan. Negroponte's talks with Israeli intelligence officials
are focusing on Iran and its nuclear program, a subject that will also
preoccupy Bush and Olmert during their meeting in Washington.

The talks with Welch and Abrams, in contrast, focused on the standing of
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The U.S. diplomats said
that Abbas is "exhibiting weakness," and the main question is whether it
is possible to strengthen him - and if so, how.

On Wednesday, the security cabinet authorized a plan put forward by the
American security coordinator in the territories, General Keith Dayton,
to bolster Palestinian security forces loyal to Abbas in the Gaza Strip.

However, this authorization was only in principle, and Israel has yet to
give a green light for either the delivery of additional arms to Abbas
or the entry into Gaza of the Badr Brigade, a Palestine Liberation
Organization force currently stationed in Jordan.

The question of how to bolster Abbas was also at the center of a meeting
of Quartet representatives in London last week. The participants -
representing the U.S., European Union, Russia and the UN - discussed the
implementation of three existing accords: a November 2005 agreement on
the Gaza border crossings, the Sharm al-Sheikh understandings of
February 2005, and the road map peace plan.

They agreed that Israel should be asked to allow expanded operations at
the Rafah and Karni crossings into Gaza, and also to enable free passage
between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel will also be asked to
remove the checkpoints that impede the free flow of traffic in the West
Bank.

Meanwhile, the British government is promoting a plan to bypass Hamas
and strengthen the PA by bolstering four institutions directly
answerable to Abbas: the border crossings authority, the monetary
authority, the presidential guard and the legal system. Norway, for its
part, is calling a conference of PA donor countries.

*
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