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Arab leaders talk peace; Netanyahu wants security crackdown

September 7, 1997
Web posted at: 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT)

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians warned Sunday that the breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian relations was a "grave threat" to the Middle East, and called on all parties involved to redouble efforts to carry the peace process forward.

The warning came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat of turning Palestinian-controlled areas into "save havens" for fundamentalist extremists.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, King Hussein of Jordan and Arafat made the statement after a one-day summit, which came ahead of this week's visit by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The summit called on the international community, and particularly those with a direct role in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, to "increase their efforts to confront the dangers to the peace process."


U.S. and Arab leaders are looking for ways to revive peace moves between Israel and the Palestinians, which broke down in March when Israel broke ground on a Jewish settlement in a disputed area of east Jerusalem. Since then, suicide bombings by Islamic militants have thrown the peace process into even deeper crisis.

The three leaders condemned all terrorist violence and said that actions toward peace should be resumed as soon as possible.

The talks followed Thursday's bomb blasts in Jerusalem, when seven people were killed, including the three suicide bombers, during an attack on a busy open-air mall.

In the wake of the incident, Netanyahu announced that he considered the Oslo peace accords no longer binding and said Israel would not hand back any more land until Arafat cracked down on "depraved terrorists."

Israeli security forces have arrested another 100 suspected Palestinian militants, the army said Sunday. This brings to 170 the number of people arrested in the West Bank in the wake of Thursday's bomb attack.

Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday, Netanyahu accused Arafat of still not doing enough to crack down on extremist Hamas members.

"They're walking around totally free, making demonstrations, declaring that they'll destroy the state of Israel," Netanyahu said.

"If Mrs. Albright is going to focus on the security issues, she is committing a mistake," said Palestinian Communications Minister Abed Rabbo. "Security has never been separated from the political aspects, and security is threatened now by the policies of the Netanyahu government: by expansion, confiscation of Palestinian land, demolitions and daily atrocities against the Palestinian people."

He also accused Arafat of creating "safe havens" and "bases of terrorist organizations minutes away from our major cities."

However, Chief Palestinian Representative to the U.S. Hasan Abdel Rahman told CNN that Palestinians could not arrest every sympathizer of Hamas.

He maintained that the Palestinian authority did take measures against extremists by destroying their infrastructure, such as bomb factories and weapons caches, and had arrested a number of suspected extremists.

The Cairo summit came ahead of Wednesday's visit by Albright, who will be making her first visit to the region. She is expected to visit Palestinian territories, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria.

On Sunday, both the Cairo summit leaders and Netanyahu separately welcomed Albright's visit and expressed hope that her mission would be successful.

Jordan has said that it hopes Albright's visit would generate ideas to revive the peace process. The United States was one of the sponsors of the Madrid peace conference and has actively mediated between Israel and the Palestinians.

Washington has demanded the Palestinians take action against the militants. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat pledged a policy of "zero tolerance" of terrorism, but virtually ruled out the Jewish state's request to arrest suspected militants en masse.

Correspondents Jerrold Kessel and James Martone Reuters contributed to this report.

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