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Progress made at Mideast talks

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Clinton likely to step in again


In this story:

Both sides say they're ready for a deal

Clinton outlined 'what's at stake'

Security tight for Friday prayers

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton is likely to meet with Middle East peace negotiators on Friday, a day after it appeared that differences over Jerusalem's future may be diminishing.

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CNN's Mike Hanna reports on the election, the peace talks, and continuing violence in the Mideast (December 21)

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Both sides differ on talks progress, according to CNN's Andrea Koppel (December 21)

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An Israeli official said both delegations are scheduled to meet again with Clinton on Friday, which will be "a time for difficult decisions."

A senior administration official said such a meeting is "likely," but "nothing is locked in."

The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are meeting at Bolling Air Force Base near Washington. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said staff from the State Department worked with them all day Thursday, and the parties "will continue working on their own" Thursday night.

Both sides say they're ready for a deal

One senior Palestinian official acknowledged Thursday that proposals were on the table, "but the Palestinian leadership needs papers, written papers and doable plans and proposals ... (then) those proposals need to be implemented immediately."

The dispute over the future of Jerusalem -- especially sovereignty over the Old City's holiest site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary -- is especially contentious.

"We're at a very, very sensitive point," Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami told Israel Army radio Thursday. "This is the first time there is the feeling that they (Palestinians) really want to get a deal. We want to see if that's possible."

However, the Palestinians' chief representative to Washington, Hasan Abdul Rahman, told CNN, "We've always wanted a deal. A deal depends on Israel."

One senior Israeli official described the mood as one of "cautious optimism," adding that negotiators were focused on the "nitty gritty."

Clinton outlined 'what's at stake'

The negotiators met with Clinton on Wednesday, and White House spokesman Jake Siewert said Clinton used the time to review "what's at stake, how important it was to reach an agreement, how important it is to proceed."

Siewert said the meeting "covered the full range of the issues that are on the table there within the peace process," but he would not elaborate.

Another Israeli official who spoke to CNN said, "Clinton didn't present bridging proposals, but rather what he called parameters for solving all the most difficult issues."

The Israeli official added these parameters were similar to ideas offered during July's Camp David talks and did not "draw a line where a border is." Rather, the official said, it's a "framework idea."

For instance, he said, "over 90 percent of the West Bank and Gaza is supposed to be handed over to the Palestinians ... and Palestinians would also have control over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem ... without drawing lines."

These parameters cover the most sensitive issues of all including: borders of a Palestinian state, sovereignty over Jerusalem, return of refugees and Israeli settlements.

The peace talks are expected to run until Saturday, but officials said with only a month remaining before Clinton leaves office, they could be extended.

Though Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was expected to meet with the negotiators on Thursday to get a status report, Reeker said that her plans had changed and that she will likely gather with them on Friday.

Security tight for Friday prayers

Israeli police, preparing for trouble after Muslim prayers on the last Friday of Ramadan at the al-Aqsa mosque, limited male worshippers to residents of East Jerusalem over the age of 35.

A police spokesman said about 18,000 worshippers were allowed into the al-Haram al-Sharif compound -- one of the most sacred sites for Jews and Muslims -- and dozens of Palestinian youths who were denied entry scuffled with police or threw stones at them.

He said about 3,000 police deployed in Jerusalem's Old City, carrying out identity checks on Palestinians at its gates.

Meanwhile, two Palestinians and an Israeli died in separate incidents Thursday, the day before the last Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinians said gunfire from an Israeli tank hit 18-year-old Ahed Marish as he was walking to his home at Karni crossing near the Gaza-Israel border. The Israel Defense Forces said it was checking into the Palestinian claim.

The IDF said an Israeli motorist was killed when the vehicle he was driving was riddled with gunfire from a passing car.

The Associated Press identified the Israeli as 30-year-old Eliahu Cohen.

Palestinians said that 41-year-old Ahmed Awad was killed near the town of Tulkarem. In that shooting, the IDF said it had fired at a Palestinian vehicle when an occupant shot at them. But the Palestinians said Awad was in his home when he was shot.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said a Palestinian man shot Wednesday in Gaza died Thursday.

Other clashes were reported in Gaza on Thursday as the three-month bout of deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians continued unabated.

Thousands filled the streets of Gaza for the funerals of four Palestinians who died in two separate incidents on Wednesday, the latest victims of the open conflict that broke out on September 28.

Four Israeli soldiers were also injured on Thursday when a Palestinian rammed a truck into a West Bank checkpoint, the IDF said.

CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel, CNN Producer Elise Labott, and The Associated Press contributed to this story, which was written by CNN.com writer Jonathan D. Austin.



RELATED STORIES:
Clinton, Mideast negotiators meet at White House
December 20, 2000
Israeli, Palestinian negotiators begin peace talks
December 19, 2000
Mideast leaders plan U.S. peace talks as violence goes on
December 17, 2000
Top officials meet amid talk of Mideast summit
December 16, 2000
U.S. officials make new push for Mideast peace talks
December 15, 2000
Israeli foreign minister, Arafat meet in Gaza
December 14, 2000
EU president to speak with Arafat, Barak
December 13, 2000
Arafat, U.S. mediator hold Mideast talks
December 12, 2000
Commission meets with Israeli, Palestinian leaders
December 11, 2000
Netanyahu challenges Barak for Israeli prime ministership
December 10, 2000
Israel's Barak to step down, seek new mandate
December 9, 2000

RELATED SITES:
The Nobel Peace Prize 1994
Meretz Party (In Hebrew)
Knesset, The Israeli Parliament
Likud
United Nations
  • Question of Palestine
U.S. State Department
  • Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
  • Middle East Peace Process
The EU and the Middle East Peace Process
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Palestinian National Authority
Israel Defense Forces
Palestine Red Crescent Society

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