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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 04:28 GMT 05:28 UK
Work starts on Middle East truce
The Palestinians have agreed to US proposals for a lasting ceasefire with the Israelis.
American and Palestinian officials announced the breakthrough following a meeting between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and CIA Director George Tenet in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The precise terms under which the Palestinians accepted the US plan are unclear.
According to reports, Palestinian officials agreed to arrest militants, but were not happy to establish buffer zones in the occupied territories to keep the two sides apart.
Israel had earlier accepted the proposals, drawn up by Mr Tenet to cement a ceasefire and end eight months of violence that have seen the deaths of about 600 people.
A US State Department official said Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a "work plan" to end violence and return to the status quo before the Palestinian intifada (uprising) broke out last September.
He added that Mr Tenet, who had originally intended to return to Washington on Tuesday, would remain in the region until at least Wednesday for possible further talks.
The BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says that although both sides have accepted the US plan, each has serious reservations.
Mr Arafat in particular will have serious difficulties selling the deal to his people.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are very popular amongst Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Any move against these groups by Mr Arafat's forces might undermine his position completely.
A spokesman for Mr Arafat, Marwan Kanafani, explained the political difficulty in arresting Hamas and Islamic Jihad members.
Mr Kanafani told the BBC: "If there was an agreement or a promise that there will be an end to this Israeli occupation and aggression, the Palestinian Authority could start talking to the people about laying down their arms. But as it stands now there is no way that we can punish the people that defended their country."
Mr Kanafani repeated the Palestinian call that the ceasefire be based on proposals by an international committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell.
The Mitchell report called for an end to violence followed by a cooling-off period and confidence-building moves, including a freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, making a speech to business people on Tuesday evening, said: "I decided to accept the programme laid out by Mr Tenet and see if it will lead to a reduction in hostilities.
"I can't say I am enthusiastic about the plan, but on the whole we can work and move forward."
The announcement of the agreement came a few hours after the Israeli army said a Greek Orthodox monk had been killed by Palestinian gunfire in the West Bank on a road leading to the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.
The man, an Israeli national, is said to have been driving his car when firing came from another car on the road.
The US-led peace drive has attracted international support. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to visit the region along with Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief.
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