RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Israeli tanks rolled into three Palestinian suburbs of Jerusalem and re-entered a West Bank city Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised the United States he would withdraw soldiers from most Palestinian areas by next week.
Despite the Israeli action, Secretary of State Colin Powell said "I think we are making progress." He said he hoped to construct an agreement -- perhaps falling short of a formal cease-fire -- within 24 hours.
A senior Palestinian official, however, said it appeared unlikely Powell would succeed. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said efforts to form a joint U.S.-Palestinian statement condemning suicide bombings and calling for an Israeli troop withdrawal had broken down. The official said the Americans would not agree to guarantees of Palestinian statehood in the joint document.
Powell met Tuesday one-on-one with Sharon, their third get-together since Friday. The secretary of state plans to see Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for a second time Wednesday at his battered Ramallah headquarters, where Israeli troops have him confined.
In a further blow to U.S. efforts, Syria denounced Sharon's proposal for a new Arab-Israeli peace conference, with the ruling party newspaper calling it a "dirty maneuver that is totally rejected."
Syria's participation at a conference would be crucial. Powell raised the idea Monday during a meeting in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Before dawn Tuesday, Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into Abu Dis, Izzariyeh and Sawahra As-Sharkiyeh, three suburbs of Jerusalem. Troops declared a curfew, confining tens of thousands of residents to their homes.
Palestinian Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia, who lives in Abu Dis, said the raids belied Sharon's pledge Monday to begin pulling back soldiers.
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