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Peres, Arafat meet in Washington

U.S., Israel sign counter-terrorism pact

April 30, 1996
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EDT (0145 GMT)

Peres and Arafat

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a sure sign of renewed momentum in the Middle East peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat sat down for talks in Washington Tuesday. Both are paying separate visits to the White House over the next two days.

Arafat arrived in Washington Tuesday evening, near the end of Peres' Washington visit. The Israelis and Palestinians are due to sign a final peace agreement within the next week.

At the White House, the focus was on terrorism. Pledging U.S. help to improve Israel's ability to defend itself, President Clinton joined Peres in signing a $100 million counter-terrorism accord.

Signing accord

"We will not let our anger turn us away from the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Maintaining our resolve for peace does not mean, however, turning the other cheek. We must do everything in our power to stop the killing and bring the terrorists to justice," Clinton said.

The agreement was formulated during a March terrorism conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It includes funds for bomb and mine detection equipment, some of which already has been sent to Israel on an emergency basis. It also provides U.S. training for Israel to fight terrorism and shared intelligence to fight terrorist threats. A joint counter-terrorism group is also planned.

The United States promised broader steps to bolster Israel's security. It will help form a new partnership to develop a system to defend northern Israeli settlements from Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets, and the United States will also lend a hand on developing an anti-ballistic missile system for Israel.

Peres

There have been no terrorist acts within Israel since the suicide bombings in Tel Aviv earlier this year. Peres credited the drop in terrorism within his country to international cooperation emerging from last month's conference, a more organized Israeli stance against terrorism, and the actions of Arafat.

"I feel that he really started to fight terror, and I say it with appreciation," Peres said.

President Clinton will meet Wednesday with Arafat at the White House. For Arafat, it marks the first time he will have been received in the United States as a national leader in his own right.

Aides said Clinton will praise Arafat for the recent Palestinian vote to rescind its long-standing opposition to Israel's right to exist. Also on the agenda: a review of the Mideast peace process and Palestinian requests for more financial aid.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. State Department released its annual terrorism report, which showed that the level of international terrorism has dropped from last year.

However, Syria remains on its list of countries that sponsor terrorism, even as it plays a key role in talks with the United States and Israel on reaching a comprehensive Mideast peace.

Correspondent Jill Dougherty contributed to this report

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