Two senior U.S. envoys postpone their trips to Israel

Two senior U.S. envoys postponed their visit to Israel and the Palestinian areas following Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's grave illness, Palestinian officials said Thursday. U.S. National Security Council official Elliott Abrams and State Department official David Welch were to have arrived in Israel later Thursday, to try to settle a dispute between Israelis and Palestinians over the participation of Jerusalem residents in Palestinian parliament elections Jan. 25. Officials in Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' office said Abrams and Welch postponed their trip because of Sharon's grave illness. Sharon suffered a massive stroke Wednesday. The delay raises further questions about whether the Palestinian election will take place on schedule. Abbas has said he might put off the vote if Israel makes good on threats to ban the participation of Jerusalem residents in the vote.

Abrams and Welch were to have met with Sharon on Thursday evening, and with Palestinian officials Friday, reports the AP. I.L.

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