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Talks Fail; New Violence Erupts

Faint Hope Lingers as Mideast Tension Grows

By Lucrezia Cuen

Oct. 5 - A brief cease-fire in the Middle East ended today, bringing new
clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. The United States
closed down embassies in the region, but the hope for peace remains.

After a week of Israeli-Palestinian violence, Arab news agencies are
reporting the area is in the midst of a new intifada.
Intifada is an Arabic term for a large-scale uprising.
A week of clashes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has left 68
people dead and 1,800 wounded, most of them Palestinians. U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright mediated emergency peace talks in Paris, but
those negotiations ended Wednesday night in a shambles - with no agreement
reached and not even a stopgap deal to end the clashes.

Sticking Points

The Paris talks had appeared on the verge of a breakthrough Wednesday
night, but crumbled when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat failed to agree on a formula for investigating the
causes of the renewed fighting.

"Arafat gave commitments. Arafat refused to sign," said a senior
Israeli official, explaining Barak's refusal to continue the talks.
Arafat wanted an international inquiry, while Barak preferred a joint
Palestinian-Israeli probe, said a senior U.S. official, speaking on
condition of anonymity.
Barak returned to Israel this morning.
Albright and Arafat headed to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for a second
round of talks today. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was joining that
session, but one of the key players - Barak - was missing.

Spreading Unrest

In what appeared an effort to salvage something from the meetings,
Albright said the United States would chair a "trilateral security
committee" to "facilitate the process of security cooperation."
But almost simultaneously, the United States announced it was closing
its diplomatic missions in the Middle East for five days, including its
consulates in Israel, due to mounting Arab protests linked to
Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Anti-American and anti-Israeli demonstrations have broken out in
parts of Lebanon and the Iraqi and Iranian capitals.
About 1,000 university students pelted the U.S. Embassy in Damascus,
Syria, with stones, branches and bags of rubbish on Wednesday.
In Egypt and Jordan, demonstrators shouted anti-Israeli slogans. And
in Cairo, Egypt, students burned an Israeli flag and smashed windows of a
British-owned supermarket, claiming the owner was Jewish.
"There is a groundswell, a feeling on the streets that this intifada
cannot be contained," said Bari Atwan, editor of Al-Qud, a London-based
Arabic newspaper.
Reports from the region say radical groups and Islamic extremists,
among them Hamas and Hezbollah, have called for "Day of Wrath" on Friday.

Signs of Hope?

One hopeful sign came from senior American mediator Dennis Ross, who today
said both sides had agreed to work to alleviate tensions.
Ross said Barak and Arafat, while in Paris, had ordered their
military commanders to separate their forces in three key flashpoint
areas. The orders, he said, were issued simultaneously during the 10 hours
of discussions in Paris.
Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian Cabinet minister, told Voice of Palestine
Radio from Paris: "Mr. Barak issued orders to all his commanders to stop
the violence and we notified our commanders as well with the same orders."

The Breakdown

The Paris talks were tense throughout the day Wednesday.
At one point Arafat stormed out of the meeting, got in his car and
headed for the gate. Albright had to sprint after the Palestinian leader
and convince him to return to the meeting.
Late in the evening, there appeared to be a tentative agreement. All
were to initial a cease-fire deal - a precursor to continued talks. Then
word broke that even that had fallen apart.
Arafat at the last minute refused to sign the text of the document
worked out in Paris when Barak stood firm on his position that he would
not permit an international committee of inquiry into the violence.
Under the accord that was to have been initialed, the Palestinians
reportedly would agree to stop the violence and agree not to enter three
flashpoint areas - the Netzarim and Ayoush junctions and the Joseph's Tomb
compound in Nablus.
In return, Israel would agree to return its troops to the positions
they held before the violence began, and to abide strictly by open-fire
rules that prohibit the use of live ammunition except when soldiers' lives
are in danger.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Ariel Sharon Speaks on Nightline

Oct. 4 - Ariel Sharon is known to some as leader of Israel's
opposition Likud Party. But to Palestinians, he is known as the
devil.
Palestinians blame Sharon's visit to a disputed Jerusalem holy
site for the recent outbreak of violence. Sharon dismissed that as
"propaganda."
The controversial opposition leader spoke on ABCNEWS' Nightline
from his farm in the Israeli desert. Here is some of what he had to
say.
On his decision to visit the Jerusalem site:
"Everyone is allowed to go to any sacred place. No limitations...
It's a free country with free access. So altogether, I must say
there is no connection between what happened."
On the deadly shooting of a Palestinian boy:
"When I see the pictures... I am shocked that they were caught by
crossfire. But it's not only my right, it's also my duty as a Jew
and Israeli to visit our sacred places."
On the sweeping wave of violence:
"The violence did not start a week ago... the violence started about
two weeks ago, or 10 days ago, and we already had casualties caused
by Palestinians and it started in Gaza. That is part of, I believe,
a preplanned initiative well orchestrated by Arafat."
On Mideast Peace:
"For me, peace should provide security to the Jewish people into one
tiny small country that they have, the only place in the world that
the Jews had the right and the power to defend themselves."
"I believe that Jews and Arabs can live together... I seek unity
among the people of Israel, maybe that's the most important thing...
that might help us to get the peace that we are all would like so
much to get."
On the Status of Jerusalem:
"The only way to have a real safe peace, to bring closure, is by
understanding that only Israel can provide that security and freedom
of access to the holy places. Therefore, Jerusalem must be united
under Israeli sovereignty... We have to look forward now. We don't
have to put blame - it's not going to help. That how I see it. That
what I'm intending to do. I'm ready to help. I'm committed to
peace."
- ABCNEWS.com

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