JERUSALEM - After months of delays and debate, diplomats formally delivered yesterday an outline of the U.S.-backed Middle East peace plan called the "road map" to the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

When and in what form the two sides will respond remained unknown, but President Bush said yesterday that he would press hard for the plan quickly being put into effect so the region can "immediately end the violence and return to a path of peace."

Bush added that "an opportunity now exists to move forward."

"The road map represents a starting point toward achieving the vision of two states - a secure state of Israel and a viable, peaceful, democratic Palestine," he said.

The road map, published on the Internet months ago and debated here long before yesterday's unveiling, was presented a day after a new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, was installed after calling the armed uprising a failure.

But it also came just hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed three bystanders in an attack at a seafront bar next to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, thereby underscoring the difficulties in ending violence that has left more than 3,000 people dead in the past 31 months.

Still, foreign leaders hailed the delivery of the plan as a signal that U.S. diplomats are prepared to devote significant attention to the region.

"I do not underestimate the commitment it will require, but the prize is enormous," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, adding that the road map "places clear but fair obligations on both sides to achieve a final and comprehensive settlement."

In Washington, Dan Bartlett, Bush's top communications adviser, said that Israelis and Palestinians would have to expect setbacks and "keep an eye at the end of the road" to achieve a lasting peace.

"We have seen when there have been steps forward, those who don't want peace and security lash out and attempt to derail the peace process," he said. "This is going to require an enormous amount of leadership on both sides of the issue, to not let that deter us from achieving our objectives."

Diplomats from the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States - a consortium known as the Quartet - drew up the road map last year. It calls for Israelis and Palestinians to make simultaneous concessions that will lead, step by step, to an independent Palestinian state by the summer of 2005.

For example, at the onset, Palestinians would be required to dismantle and disarm militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and collect illegal weapons. Israel would be required to freeze the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and dismantle illegal settlement outposts built since 2001.

Confronting popular militant groups could spark a civil war among Palestinians, and it remains to be seen whether Abbas and his new head of security, Mohammed Dahlan, will take up the challenge. Also, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's right-wing government is unlikely to accept evacuating settlements, which even Sharon has acknowledged would have to be done to create a viable Palestinian state.

While both sides say they back the plan, there is considerable debate over who should make the first move and how each step should be implemented. Israeli officials object to timelines, while the Palestinians want concessions on parallel tracks.

The envoys delivered the road map with little fanfare yesterday. About 3:30 p.m., the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel C. Kurtzer, arrived by motorcade at Sharon's Jerusalem residence and was quickly ushered inside and out of public view.

About 90 minutes later, U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen handed the plan in a red folder to Abbas - but not to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is viewed by some as an obstacle - in his Ramallah office. Abbas was flanked by several of his newly approved Cabinet ministers, and the ceremony was broadcast live on CNN.

Sharon and his aides have set a number of preconditions for the Palestinians, such as the end of all violence and the jailing of militant leaders before Israel would take its first steps.

Yesterday, Sharon's office issued a statement saying that Israel welcomed the road map "in order to receive comments on the text of the map" - which Palestinians interpreted as a bid by Israel to amend sections it does not like. Earlier this month, Sharon sent one of his top aides to Washington to raise various objections to the plan.

On Tuesday, Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat told reporters that he had been assured by Bush administration officials in December that the road map was "as is and final" and that no changes would be tolerated. Abbas, in his inaugural speech, warned that further negotiations on the provisions of the road map would mean its demise.

"The road map must be implemented, not negotiated," he said, adding that the issue of Jewish settlements continues "to be a major threat to the creation of a Palestinian state with genuine sovereignty. Thus, settlements are the primary obstacle to any peace process."

Palestinian leaders argue that by appointing Abbas prime minister and curbing Arafat's powers, they have already completed the first stage of the road map calling for internal Palestinian reform and that it is now Israel's turn to make concessions.

The road map does not offer solutions to other contentious issues, such as the future of Jerusalem and whether the city would be divided with both sides having it as their capital, and the demands by Palestinians that refugees from the Arab-Israeli wars be allowed to return to Israel.

Both sides agree that the success or failure of the plan will come down to how firmly U.S. diplomats referee disputes and push the two sides forward. Bush said he will send Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the region May 8 to meet with Abbas and Sharon. He also said he would invite Abbas, but not Arafat, to a meeting at the White House.

Powell has made it clear that the initial burden is on the Palestinians, who must show a willingness and ability to stop violence against Israelis. Yesterday's bombing in Tel Aviv gave Abbas' new government a serious test, and Israel held off retaliating as part of a grace period for the new prime minister.

Palestinian leaders condemned the attack and said that Abbas instructed Dahlan to hold talks with militant leaders in hopes of winning a temporary cease-fire, something Palestinian officials meeting in Egypt failed to accomplish during months of talks.

Hamas and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militia loosely affiliated with Arafat's Fatah faction, claimed joint responsibility for the bombing. In a statement to the Associated Press, they said it was carried out in part as a message to Abbas that "nobody can disarm the resistance movements without a political solution."

Israeli police said yesterday that two Palestinians, both of whom held British passports, were involved in what was to have been a dual attack.

The suicide bomber was identified as Asif Mohammed Hanif, who authorities said entered Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Authorities were searching for the second man, identified as Omar Khan Sharif, who escaped after his bomb malfunctioned.