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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
EU team meets Israeli leaders
From left, EU Middle East peace envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos,  Josep Pique,  Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and  European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana
The EU mission is calling for a ceasefire
Two senior European Union envoys are seeking to broker a ceasefire in Israel.

EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana and Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique met Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and they were due to meet other Israeli leaders later, diplomats said.

A solution is not possible without the United State

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique
Their request to meet Yasser Arafat, currently besieged in his Ramallah offices, was turned down by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who said the Palestinian leader would stay "isolated".

However, there was an indication that US envoy Anthony Zinni - who met Mr Sharon on Thursday - might be allowed to meet Mr Arafat.

An adviser to Mr Sharon, Raanan Gissin, said: "If he asks (to see Arafat) it will be considered."

On Wednesday, Mr Sharon turned down a request from US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Mr Zinni be allowed through an Israeli military blockade to see Arafat.

Palestinian officials said the EU envoys, despatched after an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg late on Wednesday, must be granted access to Mr Arafat, or no other Palestinians would meet them.

EU leaders have acknowledged that the US will have to use its influence if a ceasefire is to take hold.

Mission scaled down

"We are going to insist to all the parties concerned on the necessity for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal," Mr Pique told Spanish radio before leaving.

Yasser Arafat is surrounded by Israeli forces
Mr Pique was included in the peace mission after a telephone call on Wednesday between Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Mr Sharon.

It is believed that the original plan had been for Mr Aznar to head the mission, but this was scaled down when the request to visit Mr Arafat was refused.

Spain currently holds the EU presidency.

Mr Aznar said that isolating Arafat was "a mistake" and he warned of "serious additional risks" if the situation in the Middle East continued to escalate.

He said that EU efforts were aimed at "going from a situation with no way out to a situation that offers a way out".

But he said that a breakthrough could only happen if the United States took a firmer stance.

Mr Pique added: "A solution is not possible without the United States. They cannot resolve the problem on their own, but we need them."

Mr Zinni and the EU's special representative Miguel Moratinos have remained in the region trying to implement a truce drafted last June by CIA chief George Tenet.

The United Nations Security Council in New York has adjourned its debate on the crisis, saying it needs more time to discuss a draft resolution designed to put pressure on Israel to withdraw.

See also:

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