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Mideast talks could resume soon

Arafat
Arafat supported Russia's plan for a summit  


JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators could resume peace talks within days as tension continues in the region.

U.S. diplomat William Burns met with both Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday in an attempt to restart peace talks to end eight months of violence.

An Israeli official said security talks could begin by looking at violence in the West Bank, with the situation in Gaza discussed at a second meeting.

Palestinian officials have called for political issues to be included in the talks.

Arafat travelled to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Mideast crisis. The Palestinian leader said he wanted to strengthen Russia's role as mediator in the peace process.

He welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's suggestion to bring the parties together at an international summit -- but stressed it must happen soon to prevent further violence.

"Urgent measures have to be taken, otherwise there will be an explosion across the region," Arafat told reporters in Moscow.

In the latest death, an Israeli settler died of head wounds shortly after he was shot by Palestinian gunmen from a passing car near the West Bank city of Nablus, the army said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres stressed on Monday that the talks, which have been stalled for months, must resume quickly to take advantage of the momentum from the visit of Burns.

"In our view, the meetings can start between our security officials and theirs, in order to carry out the first stage of the Mitchell report," as early as Tuesday night, Peres told Israel television.

Burns was sent to the region by the Bush administration to help Israel and the Palestinians agree on a framework for implementing the Mitchell committee report.

That report -- made public last week by the five-man international, independent panel -- made proposals designed to end Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, implement confidence-building measures and eventually resume Mideast peace talks.

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath also said the talks could resume within days, but said they should include political as well as security issues, Associated Press reported.

Sharon
Sharon told Burns he accepted the Mitchell report  

He said the Palestinian side wanted the talks to come up with a plan to implement the Mitchell proposals.

Israel had initially objected to the settlement clause of the Mitchell report, saying it would have to maintain some construction to account for "natural growth."

But Sharon told Burns on Sunday that Israel "accepted and adopted" the Mitchell report, Israeli officials said.

However, Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo dismissed Sharon's pledge to accept the report, saying Israel had an "imaginary view" of what was contained in the paper, according to Reuters news agency.

Sharon assured Burns on Sunday that the cease-fire he announced last week would continue, but stressed that Israel's patience was not indefinite, Israeli officials said.

The Palestinians have dismissed the cease-fire offer as insincere and gunfights have continued with Arafat presenting a list of 94 cease-fire violations the Palestinians say Israel has made.

Since fighting erupted last September, at least 470 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and more than 80 on the Israeli side.

Israel also said it was continuing its policy of "restraint" after the explosion of two non-fatal car bombs in Jerusalem on Sunday. But Israeli officials told Burns that pressure was building and that incidents like the car bombings could not go unanswered indefinitely.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the first attack, and The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine admitted to the second bombing.







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