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Barak says he will participate in Washington peace talks if Arafat will
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced Saturday that he would participate in U.S.-brokered separate Mideast peace talks in Washington next week if Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to do the same.
"I believe that once Chairman Arafat will give his answer (whether he will attend a meeting with Clinton), a few days later on I will also come to Washington to meet with President Clinton," Barak said.
Arafat told CNN he had received a formal invitation from U.S. President Bill Clinton to attend talks -- which would be held separately from any held with Barak.
Arafat said he "hopes to go," and his decision was expected to be announced later on Saturday. The talks are tentatively set for Thursday.
Saturday, Barak adviser Gilead Sher told CNN that Israeli participation in the proposed separate talks with Clinton hinge on Arafat's "affirmative response" to the White House invitation.
"We indeed expect (an invitation) to be presented to the prime minister immediately after an affirmative response by Yasser Arafat that he indeed goes to Washington this week," Sher said. "I assume that a day or two afterwards, the prime minister will also be invited and will respond positively."
Barak, Arafat not likely to talk face-to-face
Sher ruled out "at this time" any possibility of a meeting between Barak and Arafat.
The talks are aimed at curbing more than five weeks of Israeli-Palestinian fighting that the Palestinian Red Crescent says has left at least 153 Palestinians dead. The International Red Cross says 181 people -- Palestinians, Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs -- have been killed in the clashes which began September 28.
"Most of the talks will be concentrated on how best we can go back to the negotiation table," Arafat media adviser Marwan Kanafani told CNN.
"I doubt very much that there will be any kind of calming of the situation with the presence of Israeli soldiers on our territory," Kanafani said.
Sixteen Palestinians were injured in the Gaza clashes, and a 14-year-old Palestinian girl was injured in the West Bank clashes.
At least two funerals were taking place Saturday for Palestinians who had been killed in Friday's fighting.
The continued violence underscored the fragility of a truce forged Wednesday night between Arafat and Israeli Cabinet minister Shimon Peres.
"I very much would like to think that it will hold," Sher told CNN. "I think that on the ground, we see a certain relative reduction of clashes. But at the same time we did not witness, up to now, any reduction in incitement on the mass media of the Palestinian Authority or the preachers on the mosques."
An end to the violent protests and anti-Israeli broadcasts were both terms agreed to by both sides at last month's emergency summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
"Any confrontation, any more casualties, any more terrorist attacks will completely harm and destroy" the Peres-Arafat truce, Sher said.
Two Israelis were killed Thursday in a car bombing in a popular open-air market in west Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad claimed responsiblity.
Saturday's fighting continued as Israelis marked the fifth anniversary of the assassination by an ultra-right Jew of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who sealed the 1993 Oslo interim peace deal with Arafat.
For their peace efforts, Rabin, Arafat and Peres shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.
Hope remains for Mideast truce deal despite fatal Jerusalem bombing
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