Group of 8 Backs Monitors in Mideast

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Foreign ministers from the Group of 8 nations threw their support Thursday behind deploying neutral monitors to help calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a final communique issued at the end of a two-day meeting, the ministers said the monitors must be acceptable to both sides. Their presence, the ministers said, could help implement the recommendations of an international commission, the only way, they said, to end the nine months of violence and restart the peace process.

"We believe that in these circumstances, third-party monitoring accepted by both parties would serve their interests in implementing the Mitchell Report," the communique said.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately rejected the Group of 8 recommendation, saying observers are pointless until a cease-fire is achieved.

Israel has consistently opposed allowing foreign observers on its soil or into the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians have just as consistently demanded observers as a buffer between the two sides.

Sharon's foreign policy advisor, Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the United Nations, called the G-8 vote "very unfortunate." He said he feared that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would interpret the decision as a political gain.

"The risk is that Arafat sees this as a tangible gain and therefore the lesson he learns is violence pays," Dore said in an interview.

Israeli opposition leader Yossi Sarid, of the leftist Meretz Party, welcomed the idea of observers as the only way to begin restoring calm between the two sides.

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