U.S. Applauds Cabinet Vote, Will Send Envoy to Mideast

The Bush administration on Monday welcomed the resolution of Israel’s coalition crisis and said it was dispatching a senior official to Israel next week.

John Kelly, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, will visit Israel and then travel to Egypt and Jordan, an administration official said.

Kelly will arrive in the Middle East from Stockholm, where he is to attend a U.S.-Soviet meeting on Afghanistan this weekend, the official said.

State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler could not confirm the Kelly mission during her daily briefing Monday. She said she was unaware of any scheduled trip, though a “get-acquainted” visit had been planned for some time.

Tutwiler also read a statement welcoming the Israeli Cabinet’s decision Sunday to continue supporting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s peace initiative, without adding several tough new conditions adopted by the Likud Central Committee.

“We welcome the Israeli Cabinet reaffirmation of its May 14 proposal for elections and negotiations, and see in this the commitment of the Israeli government to move forward a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” she said.

Under the Israeli plan, Palestinians would elect leaders in the administered territories to negotiate autonomy measures with the Israelis. That could then lead to talks to resolve the final status of the territories.

The Palestine Liberation Organization and Arab countries have criticized the plan for not guaranteeing the creation of a Palestinian state.

But Tutwiler reaffirmed U.S. support for the Israeli proposal. She said the United States wants to “bring about dialogue between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to structure elections and launch negotiations.”

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