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CIA chief joins Mideast peace effort

Mideast violence
Talks aim to end the violence that has left more than 300 dead  

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Palestinian and Israeli security officials are planning talks in Cairo with the head of the CIA in an effort to end 14 weeks of violence.

The meeting with U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet scheduled Sunday is part of continuing efforts to reach a new agreement that would crown U.S. President Bill Clinton's eight years in office.

Both Palestinians and Israelis alike express doubt that the parties can reach an agreement to end 52 years of conflict before Clinton leaves office on January 20.

CNN's Mike Hanna reports on why many Mideast residents do not support the peace process (January 5)

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Gilead Sher comments on his meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton (January 5)

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Sher highlights points of discussion in a prior meeting with Clinton and his Mideast peace team (January 5)

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graphic In-Depth: Israel Election 2001


An Israeli official told CNN: "We don't believe a deal is do-able in the next two weeks," but Israeli peace envoy Gilead Sher told U.S. mediators that, as far as the Israeli government is concerned, "January 20 is an important day."

But the White House said Sher, who wrapped up three days of talks in Washington Saturday, suggested that Clinton convene a summit to provide "a road map as to how to go forward."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat predicted no peace deal would be reached before Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak faces re-election.

"I don't expect a deal will be reached before the Israeli elections on February 6, even after Clinton leaves office, because of the sensitivities of the issue and because the gaps between us are too wide," Erakat said.

Negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have stalled over several key issues. Chief among those issues were sovereignty over an east Jerusalem site sacred to both Jews and Muslims and the Palestinian demand for a right of return for Palestinian families -- and their descendants -- who were forced to leave what is now Israel when the Jewish state was founded in 1948.

But Israeli cabinet minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a former army chief due to take part in the Cairo talks, said discussions on halting the violence could help achieve an agreement.

The meeting takes place as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Amman to brief Jordan's King Abdullah on latest developments.

Arafat said in Oman on Saturday that he would work with the new U.S. administration of George W. Bush towards a peace deal if no agreement was reached before Clinton left office.

A White House spokesman said Clinton could decide by Sunday or Monday whether there was sufficient agreement on his proposed Middle East peace guidelines to warrant further discussions before he leaves office.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office said the head of the National Security Council, Uzi Dayan, would meet Clinton's National Security adviser, Sandy Berger, in Washington in the next few days.

The diplomatic push came as the Israeli army moved several security checkpoints deeper into the West Bank to buffer Israeli towns and settlements from attacks by Palestinian gunmen, an army spokesman said on Sunday.

The checkpoints were moved further into West Bank territory under Israeli control and "is meant to cope ... with the terror activities against us near checkpoints that were close to our towns. They were moved closer to the villages from which the terrorists came," army spokesman Olivier Rafowicz said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Clock running down for Clinton's hopes for Mideast deal
January 6, 2001
Arafat meets Mubarak, will consult Arab ministers on U.S. peace proposals
January 3, 2001
Arafat concludes second meeting with Clinton
January 2, 2001
Clinton and Arafat to meet Tuesday to discuss framework for peace
January 1, 2001
Mideast peace process limps along, shadowed by violence
December 29, 2000
Mideast talks inconclusive
December 23, 2000

Israeli Prime Minister's Office
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The White House
Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian Position Regarding Clinton's Proposals 

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