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Arafat, Peres agree to meet



RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said on Tuesday he had agreed to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and that the meeting could take place "at any moment."

Peres, on a trip to Hungary, said he intended to meet Arafat in the "very near future."

"With words it is possible to achieve a lot more than with explosions and it is our desire to bring the current conflict to an end," Peres said. "The solution is the reconciliation between two nations."

Arafat made his comments after meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer in Ramallah, West Bank. Fischer is on a three-day tour of the violence-torn region, spearheading a new initiative to try to end 11 months of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I welcome your (Fischer's) good ideas and I welcome meeting ... Shimon Peres in your office in Berlin as you suggested," Arafat told reporters following his meeting with Fischer.

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On Monday, Israel Radio reported Peres would ask Fischer to carry a message to Arafat. The former Israeli prime minister -- who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat and assassinated Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin -- is believed to have a proposal for a phased plan for implementing a cease-fire that he wants to discuss with the Palestinian leader.

Under the plan, the two sides would agree to implement a cease-fire province-by-province. Israel would agree to withdraw its restrictions on the Palestinians in any province where the violence stops.

Fischer said 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.

U.S. opposes international monitors

Fischer arrived in the Middle East on Monday, and -- after meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Maher, insisted that the peace plan put forward by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell in May was the "only usable instrument" to achieve peace in the region.

He is to travel to Jerusalem later Tuesday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and scheduled to return to Ramallah on Wednesday to sign a "peace appeal" before flying back to Berlin.

Fischer was originally scheduled to visit Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as well, but the tour was shortened at the last minute. The German Foreign Ministry gave no reason for the schedule change.

In a separate development, the United States 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.

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

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






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