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U.N. to discuss Mideast violence

Peres and Arafat
Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat  


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Key Israeli, Palestinian, Islamic and U.S. figures have stepped up their political efforts to curb violence in the Mideast.

The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an open meeting for Monday to discuss the Middle East at the request of Islamic nations, Reuters reported.

A Palestinian diplomat told Reuters he had drafted a resolution calling for a "monitoring mechanism," or an observer force to help end the violence.

The United States, which has veto power on the 15-nation board, has indicated it would block any such move because Israeli does not support outside monitors except to verify a peace deal.

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Meanwhile, U.S. President George W. Bush phoned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday, hours before Egypt's top foreign policy official criticized the White House's lack of involvement in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Osama el-Baz, national security adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, told CNN "active American diplomacy" is needed to curb "a spiral of escalation that nobody is able to stop."

In his call to Sharon, Bush expressed condolences to families of recent suicide bombing victims and discussed the prospects for peace, a White House aide said.

"Both leaders agreed on the need to avoid escalating the situation in the region," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "Both leaders reaffirmed their support for implementing the Mitchell committee report and the Tenet work plan."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres voiced similar sentiments on MSNBC on Wednesday night. He said his government was trying to renew negotiations with Palestinians "to talk face-to-face with the Palestinians and try to use reason instead of weapons."

"We don't intend to reoccupy the West Bank," Peres added.

These statements followed what Israeli sources said was a dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian officials that resulted in a suspension of Israeli military activity centered on the Arab town of Beit Jalah.

Beit Jallah is near the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Palestinians contacted Israeli officials and pledged to stop firing on Gilo, Israeli sources said. Palestinians regard Gilo as occupied territory belonging to Beit Jallah.

"As a result of these political contacts ... a decision was made to temporarily suspend the military activity," Sharon spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said.

A Palestinian taxi driver killed near the West Bank of town of Nablus on Thursday when his car overturned after a stone was thrown through his front windshield.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society blamed Jewish settlers for throwing the stone. Israeli police confirmed the details of the incident but said the identity of those who threw the stone has not known.

The driver was identified as Kamal Musalem, 52, of Talfit, according to The Associated Press, which reported witnesses saying a car with Israeli license plates stopped on the road, and a person in the car threw a rock at the Palestinian taxi.

An Israeli police spokesman said that after the stone went through the windshield the driver lost control and the car rolled over, killing him. Six passengers were slightly hurt.






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