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Clinton invites Arafat to Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House says President Clinton spoke with Palestinian authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for 30 minutes Tuesday and invited him to Washington for talks on implementing the Sharm el-Sheik agreements on ending the ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Arafat did not commit to coming but is reviewing the offer, according to National Security Council Spokesman P.J. Crowley.

Crowley says Clinton did not discuss the meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but the White House did not rule out additional conversations that might include Barak.

CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney reports on Monday's developments (October 24)

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CNN interviewed Gilead Sher, senior Barak adviser, and Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator back-to-back Tuesday evening (October 24)

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Mideast peace

Crowley says the purpose of any meeting with Clinton and the Palestinian or Israeli leaders would be to win quicker and complete implementation of the three-pronged peace and security agreement reached October 16 at the emergency summit in the Egyptian resort town.

The agreement, which was not signed by either Arafat or Barak, committed both sides to taking concrete steps to reduce violence in the region, create a fact-finding commission to determine the causes of the violence and to create a timetable for returning to peace talks.

Immediately following the summit in Sharm el-Sheik, Israelis and Palestinians took some steps toward implementing the agreement. For instance, the Israelis re-opened the airport in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority released a statement calling for and end to the violence.

But the situation in the region has deteriorated since then as violence has flared and both sides have taken steps away from the Sharm el-Sheik agreement.

Clinton and Abdullah call for talks

Clinton and Jordan's King Abdullah called on the Israelis and Palestinians to talk through their differences and end the latest violence in the region.

"Though the path of peace is steep and has become steeper these last few weeks, in the long run it is the only path that offers the peoples of the Middle East hope for a normal life as part of the modern world," Clinton said on Tuesday evening.

"That is the path Jordan has chosen consistently. It is critically important that the United States stand with Jordan and leaders like King Abdullah, struggling to give their people prosperity, standing for peace, understanding that the two pursuits go hand in hand."

The president's comments came as trade representatives from the United States and Jordan signed a free-trade pact.

Clinton called on the Israelis and Palestinians to work together to end the fighting.

"As hard as it may be, there must be an end to the violence, and the Israelis and Palestinians must find a way out of confrontation and back to the path of peaceful dialogue, and they must do it sooner rather than later," the president said.

"For in the Middle East, as we have all learned, time does not heal wounds. It simply rubs more salt in them."

King Abdullah promised to continue the work that his father set out to do.

"Two years ago to this day, my late father, his majesty King Hussein, stood in this same room and reminded the leaders of the Middle East that it was their responsibility to move beyond violence as a way to resolve political differences," he said.

"There has been enough destruction, enough death, enough waste," the monarch added.

King Abdullah, who praised Clinton's efforts to secure peace in the Middle East, said the events of the past few weeks had left "much anger, despair and bitterness" in the region.

"There is a need to keep the faith in peace," he said.

CNN White House Correspondent Major Garrett contributed to this report.

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