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EU to Israel: Withdraw troops now

The headquarters of Palestinian Preventive Security on the outskirts of Ramallah burns after coming under attack by Israeli forces  

MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- The European Union on Tuesday told Israel that it must immediately end its incursions into Palestinian territories, withdraw its troops and end the confinement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Spain -- which holds the rotating presidency of the 15-nation EU -- summoned Israel's ambassador to Spain, Hertzl Inbar, to the Spanish Foreign Ministry to deliver the message.

"One thing is to fight terrorism, and another is to dismantle the Palestinian Authority's power structure," Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said at a news conference after the meeting.

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An immediate ceasefire, he said, is necessary to return the troubled region to a "minimum normalcy."

Standing with Pique were Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in Madrid to discuss Russia's relations with the EU, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

David Saranga, a spokesman for the Israeli ambassador, said that Inbar met with Miguel Nadal, a top aide to Pique, for about 30 minutes and told the Spaniards he would deliver the EU's message.

Saranga said Inbar had conveyed the message to his government. There was no immediate word from the Israelis, however, about the communique.

Saranga also said that during the meeting, Inbar called on the EU to pressure the Palestinian Authority and Arafat to end terrorism, and spoke of the Israeli victims of recent violence.

The EU called on Israel to immediately implement the U.N. Security Council resolution passed last week calling for a ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal and cooperation with U.S. Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni. The resolution passed the Security Council by a 14-0 vote with Syria abstaining.

The Spanish foreign minister also said the EU supports the Saudi Arabian peace initiative approved last week at the Arab League summit.

Pique, Solana and Ivanov agreed that the cost of the fight against terrorism must not be the destruction of the Palestinian Authority.

"We share the objective of the struggle against internal terrorism," Ivanov said, "but this fight against terrorism must not lead" to the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority.

"We must not create collateral problems," he said.

The destruction of the Palestinian Authority, Pique said, would further complicate the situation both in the region and around the world.

Solana said the EU wanted to "recover a peace process" that would result in two independent states -- Israel and Palestine -- each with secure borders.

Pique said that if the EU's calls for Israel to lower the violence did not have an effect, the EU would be willing to consider other, unspecified, measures to end the conflict.




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