Peres Prepares for Peace Initiative

JERUSALEM?Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is preparing a peace initiative that reportedly calls for Israel to dismantle its settlements in Gaza, a move opposed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his partner in Israel’s brittle government.

The independent plan could cause a rift within a government increasingly divided over Israel’s two-week incursions into Palestinian controlled towns in the West Bank. Peres acknowledged Tuesday he was preparing a plan but refused to elaborate on its details.

Peres told reporters he would likely meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over the weekend at an economic conference in Spain, the first high-level contact since the incursions were launched. But he stressed the two wouldn’t negotiate.

Arafat, who was in Rome on Tuesday, called for negotiations with Israel.