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Clinton hopes for meetings with Arafat, Barak
Palestinian says Arafat has agreed
CNN Correspondents Fionnuala Sweeney, Rula Amin and Eileen O'Connor and VP of Special Projects Larry Register contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM -- U.S. President Bill Clinton hopes to meet separately with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak "in the near future," said White House Press Secretary Jake Siewart.
Siewert's comment was made Friday after a meeting at the White House between National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also met Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the State Department.
Arafat told CNN he has been invited to Washington to meet with Clinton on November 9. Erekat told CNN after his meeting with Berger that Arafat has agreed to meet with Clinton.
After his talks with Albright, Erekat said he had brought up the issue of an international protection force for Palestinians. Albright, he said, was "not enthusiastic" but "agreed to continue discussions" on the matter.
A White House spokesman had earlier been reported as saying that Clinton would meet Arafat and Barak next week, but that was later denied by the White House, which said a pool reporter had "misunderstood" a briefing.
'Things are better'
Two Palestinians were killed on Friday as fighting continued in Israel and the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. Both sides said that violence had diminished, however, and that they were committed to putting an end to fighting.
In the past five-and-a-half weeks of violence, at least 181 people have died, most of them Palestinians.
In clashes that followed Friday prayers, a Palestinian man was shot dead at Tulkarem in the West Bank. Another was killed in fighting at Hizme near Jerusalem.
Despite the violence Friday, officials on both sides expressed some optimism.
"Things are better than they were two days ago," said Nabil Sha'ath, a senior Palestinian negotiator. He accused the Israelis, however, of being "trigger happy" and firing into three West Bank towns. He added that "the violence is less than before. Hopefully, the casualties will be as well."
Alon Pinkas, chief of staff to Israel's foreign minister, said he was "optimistic in our chances to reach some kind of coexistence. But I am very, very cautious and I would say even skeptical that a peace process in the kind and form that we have known for the last two, three, four years, can still go on in the same format."
Arafat told CNN that he was waiting for the Israelis to make good on their commitments in the cease-fire brokered Wednesday night between him and former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Arafat said he's done his part. "Now I'm waiting for them to do their part."
The Palestinian leader told CNN he was still hopeful about the peace process.
Fighting in West Bank, Gaza
Near Bethlehem, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its troops had come under machine-gun fire from Palestinians. Troops responded with tank rounds and machine guns, the IDF said. Palestinians said at least three houses were damaged in the tank fire.
Meanwhile, fighting was reported in several West Bank towns. A clash broke out after a funeral in Hebron in which Palestinians tossed stones and Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas. At least two Palestinians were left in critical condition.
In Ramallah, several dozen Palestinians were injured, at least one critically, in a confrontation in which the IDF said several of its troops had suffered injuries.
About 200 Palestinians broke through a fence near an Israeli military outpost at Karni crossing in Gaza. The IDF said it had fired rubber-coated steel bullets during the clash and redeployed armored personnel carriers there.
The IDF said while scattered fighting continued, it appeared that attempts to implement the latest cease-fire were under way.
Palestinian officials canceled two planned marches in Gaza on Friday. On Thursday, Palestinian police moved to restrain rock-throwing demonstrators. Israel pulled back some tanks from around Palestinian areas, but during his interview with CNN Arafat said, "Tanks are still deployed in areas where they should have been moved."
Steps taken after bombing
Security was tight in Jerusalem in the aftermath of a car bombing that killed two people Thursday near the popular open-air Mahane Yehuda market in west Jerusalem.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that bombing.
At the Al Aqsa Mosque, police barred Palestinian men under 45 from praying at Haram al-Sharif -- what Jews call the Temple Mount -- a site holy to both Jews and Muslims. In the past, young Palestinians have rioted. This time they stood in the street and prayed.
Hope remains for Mideast truce deal despite fatal Jerusalem bombing
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