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Mideast peace no closer after Barak, Arafat meet with Clinton
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Monday morning brought minor skirmishes between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak followed his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington with a trip to Chicago, where he was scheduled to address a conference of U.S. Jews.
No casualties were reported in the Mideast clashes.
After his meeting with Clinton, Barak gave reporters a brief statement that gave nothing away about the specifics of the talks.
"Israel strives for the peace that will be reached on the negotiating table, rather than imposing the will of one side on the other," Barak said after a 2 1/2-hour meeting that ended shortly after 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Referring to the recent Camp David peace summit, Barak reiterated that Israel was ready to "contemplate far-reaching ideas in order to bring about peace."
"Unfortunately, we do hear different signals from the Arab side," he said. "I can just say that this is not the way."
But Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said it was the Israelis who perpetuated the violence, telling the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Qatar on Sunday that the Palestinians would not give up their fight to evict Israeli troops from Palestinian-held territories.
"Our people are determined more than at any other time to continue their holy struggle ... with the help of our brothers and friends," he said.
Disagreement over protection force
Barak and Arafat blamed each other for the violence that has plagued the region for seven weeks -- leaving over 200 people dead, the vast majority of them Palestinians or Israeli Arabs. Nearly 20 people have died in the last three days.
On Sunday, a bullet hit a car carrying United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson in the West Bank. It was unclear who fired the shot; Robinson was uninjured.
Robinson was meeting with the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council on Monday, while thousands gathered in Gaza for the funeral of a 15-year-old boy killed in a Sunday clash.
Barak traveled to Washington at Clinton's behest with the aim of discussing ways to end the violence and restarting the stalled peace process. Clinton held a similar meeting with Arafat on Thursday.
Arafat departed Washington on Friday, heading to New York, where he took his proposal for a 2,000-member protection force to the U.N. Security Council. Barak has rejected that proposal, as has the United States, citing Barak's rejection.
Israeli officials see Arafat's attempt to expand the players in the peace process to include the United Nations and the European Union as "writing new rules of the game." This, said one U.S. official, "questions American legitimacy in the process and basically says what has been done over the past seven years (of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking) is no good."
Israel mourns Leah Rabin
Israel, meanwhile, was mourning the death of Leah Rabin, wife of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Leah Rabin died of heart failure on Sunday following a long bout with cancer. She was 72.
In Washington, Barak said that Leah Rabin had been "a true partner for (Yitzhak Rabin) all along his life, and the woman that carried the torch of the peace process since her husband was assassinated."
"We're all missing and mourning her, and may the Lord bless her memory," he said.
Leah Rabin's funeral was to be held on Wednesday and would be attended by President Clinton's wife, New York Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Barak's meeting with Clinton postponed by Russian hijacking
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