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Arafat agrees to meet Peres

Fischer and Peres
Joschka Fischer and Shimon Peres at Monday's press conference in Tel Aviv  


RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he has agreed to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in Berlin.

Peres has not committed himself to a meeting with Arafat yet, but insisted after meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Monday that Israel was serious about working toward peace.

Fischer, who arrived in the Middle East Monday, is on a three-day tour of the region, spearheading a new initiative aimed at ending 11 months of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and kick-starting the Middle East peace process.

Speaking at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, Arafat called for the immediate implementation of an internationally backed peace plan.

"I welcome your (Fischer's) good ideas and I welcome meeting ... Shimon Peres in your office in Berlin," Arafat said.

RESOURCES
In-Depth: Mideast Struggle for Peace  
Message Board: Mideast peace  
 

Asked when the meeting could take place, Arafat said: "At any moment." The two last met informally in Portugal in late June.

Fischer said Arafat proposed the Berlin meeting and that he supported talks between the Palestinian leader and Peres.

"We are ready day and night, 24 hours, seven days a week, when there is a need, we will be there and the door will be open and everything will be tried," Fischer told reporters.

After meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Maher, Monday Fischer insisted that the peace plan put forward by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell in May was the "only usable instrument" to achieve peace in the region.

Fischer is due to travel to Jerusalem later Tuesday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

He is scheduled to return to the Ramallah on Wednesday to sign a "peace appeal" before flying back to Berlin.

He was originally scheduled to visit Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as well, but the tour was shortened at the last minute. No reason has been given by the German Foreign Ministry for the changed schedule.

In separate development the U.S. made it clear it would not support a draft resolution proposed to the United Nations by the Palestinians for the deployment of international monitors in the region.

Funeral
Palestinian woman at the funeral of Samir Abu Zeid  

The Palestinian U.N. representative, Nasser Al-Kidwa, said his people "need the assistance of the international community."

The Israeli U.N. Ambassador, Yehuda Lancry, however, dismissed the Palestinian draft plan as "one-sided."

On the ground, violence between the two sides, which has claimed more than 570 Palestinian and 150 Israeli lives, has continued.

The Israel Defense Forces said Monday that a member of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah political movement died Sunday while working on a bomb that exploded in his home.

The IDF statement contradicts Palestinian security sources who said Sunday that the victims -- identified by the IDF as Samir Abu Zeid and two of his children -- were killed by an Israeli missile attack in the Gaza town of Rafah along the Egyptian border.

The IDF said it believed Zeid was making a bomb.

Israeli security sources initially said a preliminary investigation revealed that a Palestinian mortar shell hit Zeid's home -- instead of its intended Israeli target -- during an exchange of fire between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian sources said an Israeli tank and four jeeps tried to enter an area of Palestinian control, and a gun battle ensued. The Israelis withdrew without entering, the sources said.

The Israeli army said its troops came under fire from Palestinians and responded to the source of the fire.

A 60-year-old Palestinian woman was wounded by shrapnel in her thigh as a result of shelling of her house, the sources said.






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• Israel Defense Forces
• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Palestinian Authority

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