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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 23:41 GMT
US builds new Mid-East peace initiative
Palestinian gunmen in Bethlehem
America wants Palestinian violence to stop
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet US President George W Bush at the White House in December as America renews its efforts to revive Middle East peace talks.

A White House statement said they would discuss the international campaign against terrorism and the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.


We will insist on complete calm, with no threats and no attacks against Israeli citizens, before negotiations

Ariel Sharon
The announcement follows a speech on Monday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who promised greater US engagement in the region, starting with the appointment of two envoys.

Just before the statement was issued, Mr Bush and Mr Powell met Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns and retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, who will leave for the Middle East on Sunday.

Their mandate is to arrange an Israeli-Palestinian truce as a first step towards reviving peace talks which broke down in January.

Violence continues

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the envoys had been hearing from the president "what he wants them to do".

"Their job is to get on the ground and work with the parties, help the parties move forward, help them come to the understandings that create a real ceasefire, that's the first goal," Mr Boucher said.

Mr Burns is expected to travel throughout the region while General Zinni - Mr Powell's senior adviser on the Middle East - will stay in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Israeli soldiers in Hebron
Israel wants seven days of peace before it withdraws
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Powell spoke by telephone with Mr Sharon to lay the groundwork for the envoys' trip and to make final arrangements for the prime minister's visit to Washington on 3-4 December.

In Jerusalem, Mr Sharon's office said the prime minister had told Mr Powell that there had been no let up in Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets.

"The terror in the region has not stopped, not for one moment," the office said in a statement.

In his landmark speech in Kentucky on Monday, Mr Powell reaffirmed that Washington had a vision for the Middle East which included an Israeli state and a Palestinian state living peacefully side-by-side.

Palestinians arrested

He called on the Palestinians to end violence against Israelis and called on the Israelis to stop building settlements in Palestinian controlled land.

In the latest conflict, Israeli forces arrested two Palestinian brothers in a raid on Kafr al-Labed, a Palestinian-controlled village near Tulkarm in the West Bank.

Israeli security sources said the two men belonged to the militant Hamas group - a claim denied by Palestinian security sources and the men's family.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held telephone talks with Colin Powell
Israel is demanding seven days with no violence before it will fully withdraw its forces from Palestinian-controlled areas.

Palestinian leaders and many Western diplomats regard the demand as unrealistic.

Receiving an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University in Beersheva on Wednesday, Mr Sharon said: "We will insist on complete calm, with no threats and no attacks against Israeli citizens, before negotiations."

Hamas has called on Palestinian leaders not to co-operate with the US initiative. Ismail Hanayeh, a Hamas official, said its aim was to sabotage the Palestinian struggle.


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20 Nov 01 | Middle East
20 Nov 01 | Middle East
20 Nov 01 | Americas
19 Nov 01 | Middle East
17 Nov 01 | Middle East
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