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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 08:01 GMT
Arafat 'meets Israeli minister'
Palestinian funeral
More Palestinians have died in clashes
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat held overnight talks with a senior Israeli minister, according to reports on Israeli and Palestinian radio stations.

The meeting came as US envoy Dennis Ross once again delayed his last-ditch peace mission to the region.

Some sources are now saying that his visit has been cancelled altogether.

Israeli demonstrators at Jaffa gate
Some Israelis have objected to proposals to divide Jerusalem
Israeli and Palestinian radio stations reported that Mr Arafat had met Tourism Minister, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who is also a former army chief.

Mr Lipkin-Shahak has taken part in the Israeli Government's effort to secure a peace settlement.

The Israeli radio station reported that the two men discussed reviving security co-operation - but the Palestinian radio report denied this.

Phone conversation

In a further sign that US-sponsored peace efforts are continuing, Mr Arafat had a 30-minute telephone conversation with President Bill Clinton on Tuesday night.

A White House spokeswoman said the call, initiated by Mr Clinton, was a follow-up to security meetings in Cairo and the president's conversation on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Israeli peace demo
Peace remains the main concern of many
The Clinton administration is keen to lay the framework for a peace deal before the president leaves office on 20 January.

But Mr Ross's mediation visit to the Middle East, originally due to begin on Tuesday - has now been delayed until Thursday.

Palestinian sources were quoted as saying that the Ross mission had been called off, although the White House could not confirm this.

Declaration

Mr Barak said on Tuesday he believed Mr Ross would try to reach an agreement on a declaration of intent, rather than a full peace agreement.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Jerusalem says the focus has switched to persuading both sides to sign a statement that locks in the hard-won gains so far.

Mr Clinton's proposals, though accepted by both sides in principle, have drawn strong opposition.

The difficulties facing Mr Ross were highlighted by further clashes in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli security forces on Tuesday, which resulted in the deaths of two Palestinians.

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