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Peres, Arafat agree on security moves

Gaza handshake
Peres and Arafat shake hands after their Gaza meeting  

GAZA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (CNN) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have reached agreement on resuming full security cooperation.

The two leaders also said they would make "a maximum effort" to sustain a shaky cease-fire in place since last week.

On-off talks finally took place at Gaza international airport after intense U.S. pressure to help clear the way for Arab nations to join a global anti-terror alliance.

In a joint communique, Peres and Arafat said they had agreed to establish a joint committee of senior representatives to deal with any issue that may arise from the implementation of the Mitchell peace plan and to resume full security cooperation and exert maximum efforts to sustain the declared cease-fire.

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They also agreed to carry out all security obligations emanating from previous security agreements; and that Israel would begin to lift closures and redeploy its forces.

The two men also agreed to meet again in "a week or so."

The meeting was considered crucial by the United States in its efforts to draw Arab and Muslim states into its "global coalition against terrorism" launched following attacks on New York and Washington.

There was no news conference after the meeting. Instead chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat read out a joint statement to reporters.

Later Israel Radio reported that security officials would meet on Friday.

Peres was quoted as saying that in addition to the terms outlined in the communique, the Palestinian Authority has also pledged to begin arresting suspected militants and collecting illegal weapons.

Palestinian sources said Arafat also asked that Orient House, the unofficial Palestinian headquaters in Jerusalem, be reopened.

The building was seized by Israeli troops on August 11 following a suicide attack on a pizza restaurant which killed 16 people.

Orient House is a symbol of Palestinian aspirations for an independent state. The Israelis charged the Palestinians were violating agreements about what activies would take place there.

Wounded Israeli soldier
An injured Israeli soldier is airlifted to hospital  

The Peres-Arafat meeting was held only hours after three Israeli soldiers were wounded in an explosion that went off in a tunnel running under an Israeli military outpost near the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, Israel Defense Forces told CNN. One of the soldiers was seriously injured.

In addition, Palestinian teenagers thew stones at an Israeli army post near the airport as the meeting was going on. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that one teenager was killed and six others hurt.

Four-times previously, the Peres-Arafat meeting had been canceled by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who accused Arafat of not doing enough to honor a cease-fire.

Wednesday morning's attack on the outpost took place in one of many tunnels Palestinians have burrowed between Egypt and Gaza. The explosion reportedly crumbled one wall of the IDF outpost.

Israel announced last Tuesday it would stop offensive operations against the Palestinians after Arafat ordered his security forces not to open fire on Israelis even in self-defense.


• Israel preserves Mideast truce
September 21, 2001
• Violence postpones Mideast meeting
September 20, 2001
• Militants rejects truce
September 19, 2001

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