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The BBC's Barbara Plett reports from the West Bank
"As long as the funerals continue nobody here believes there is a ceasefire"
 real 56k

The BBC's Hugh Schofield
reports on Ariel Sharon's visit to Paris
 real 56k

Friday, 6 July, 2001, 19:36 GMT 20:36 UK
Sharon talks up Europe visit
Palestinians burn effigy of Ariel Sharon
Unrest on the ground continues
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has played down tensions with European leaders after a brief but difficult visit to France and Germany.

He said that it would be wrong to believe Europe is a lost cause for his country.

Those who think Europe is a lost cause for Israel are wrong

Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon acknowledged that he had not seen totally eye-to-eye with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac in his efforts to get them to take a more pro-Israeli standpoint on the Middle East peace process.

But he told journalists he believed he had achieved his main aim - to get the Israeli position well understood.

Mr Sharon returned as senior Palestinian and Israeli security officials were meeting in Tel Aviv amid international efforts to reduce tension.

Ariel Sharon shakes hands with Jacques Chirac
Smiles concealed a stern message from France
But Palestinian officials were quoted before the meeting as saying they saw no prospects for progress.

Sporadic violence continued on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank overnight.

Under a truce negotiated by CIA director George Tenet, a week of calm was to precede a six-week cooling-off period. The Palestinians say the week is over; the Israelis say the ongoing violence means it has yet to begin.

Amid the unrest, the outgoing American ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, has told an Israeli newspaper that the peace process based on the Oslo accords has failed.

Europe's concerns

During Mr Sharon's two-day visit, French and German leaders urged him not to undermine the Palestinian leadership with his demand for a total cessation of violence.

Ariel Sharon inspects honour guard in Berlin
Germany takes the softest line on Israel in Europe
French officials said French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin expressed concern that Israel's insistence that violence stop totally would never be met, so damaging the chances of re-starting the peace process.

But Mr Sharon insisted that Israel would "not negotiate under ... violence and terrorism".

Mr Sharon went to Europe to seek support for Israel's view of its conflict with the Palestinians and to ask for pressure to be brought on the Palestinians to clamp down on militants.

As expected, he received a warmer welcome in Germany than France, although Chancellor Schroeder said he had offered Mr Sharon friendly advice to be more "flexible" on the question of continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

Ambassador's fears

Mr Indyk, who is set to return to the US, has voiced more concerns about the state of the peace process overall.

Martin Indyk, outgoing US ambassador to Israel
US ambassador says Oslo accords have failed
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Mr Indyk said part of the blame lay with what he called a failure of Arab leadership.

He accused the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, of never really abandoning violence as a means of achieving his objectives.

BBC Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner says his comments have angered Palestinians, who regard the ambassador as a symbol of what they see as Washington's permanent bias towards Israel.

Mr Arafat, meeting an American peace group on Thursday night, reaffirmed his commitment to peace.

"I am also committed to the ceasefire and we are exerting a 100 percent effort against violence," he said.

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