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EU tries to arrange Arafat-Peres meeting

Arafat questions purpose of talks

Peres & Arafat
Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat  


JERICHO, West Bank (CNN) -- The European Union's top diplomat was in the Middle East on Monday trying to broker a meeting between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to halt ongoing violence in the region.

The EU's Javier Solana met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat in Jericho to discuss the proposed meeting. Solana, who also discussed the proposed talks with Peres on Monday, said no concrete plans have been made.

"This is not easy and therefore we don't want to create expectations that may not be realized," he said. "But we want to work as hard as possible every single minute during the time we are here."

The purpose of any meeting between Arafat and Peres should be clear, Erakat said.

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"We don't want a meeting for the sake of the meeting," Erakat said. "We need a meeting with substance."

Arafat, who was not at the Jericho meeting, said he would not say "no" to a meeting but expressed concern about its purpose.

"I welcome any meeting [with Peres], but the most important thing is: What are we going to talk about?" Arafat said. "Shall we forget the meeting that we had in Gaza on the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement?"

Ha'aretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, reported Peres did not rule out holding talks with Arafat at a conference in Italy this week to which both have been invited.

Speaking on Israel Radio Monday, Peres said he hoped such a meeting would yield a cease-fire after 11 months of clashes that have left more than 600 Palestinians and 160 Israelis dead, the newspaper reported.

More fighting, injuries

Violence continued in the region Monday. The Israel Defense Forces reported two Israeli soldiers were injured in Hebron. The Palestine Red Crescent Society reported one Palestinian was killed and a second was brain dead.

Palestinian sources said Israeli helicopter gunships fired two missiles and destroyed a Palestinian intelligence headquarters in Dura at the western entrance of Hebron in the southern West Bank. Another Israeli missile hit the Force 17 checkpoint in the same area, sources said.

The IDF said helicopters hit the intelligence post in response to a shooting in the West Bank on Sunday and attack attempts Sunday night and Monday.

Four bombs exploded near Jerusalem on Monday, slightly wounding at least three people, Israeli police said. A Palestinian group calling itself The Brigadiers of Abu Ali Mustafa took responsibility for the attacks.

The group said the bombs were in response "to the crimes of the occupation, of assassinations and of airstrikes on our towns and our villages and the assassination of Abu Ali Mustafa." Ha'aretz reported the group is a military arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Mustafa, also known as Mustafa Zibri, was secretary-general of the PFLP and was among the top leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was killed August 27 in an Israeli missile attack on Ramallah in the West Bank. Israeli officials said Zibri was responsible for at least eight car bombings.






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