US: Palestinians have made progress in restoring order in Nablus

Palestinian security forces have made "some progress" in restoring order in the West Bank city of Nablus, which was long ruled by gangs, a US diplomat said after a tour Wednesday. The US assessment matters because Washington will be the judge of whether Palestinians and Israelis are meeting their short-term peace obligations. For the Palestinian government, that mainly means disarming militants, while Israel is required to freeze settlements and dismantle settlement outposts. Palestinian negotiators say that while they have started meeting their security obligations, Israel has done nothing so far. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported Wednesday that an Israeli delegation is heading to Washington to negotiate the terms of a partial settlement freeze with the Bush administration. Under the US-backed "road map" plan, which has been revived as part of current US-led peace efforts, Israel is to freeze all construction immediately, and in parallel with a Palestinian security clampdown.