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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 02:34 GMT
US urges action from Arafat
Anthony Zinni (left), Ariel Sharon (second right), Dick Cheney (right)
Cheney visit aims to bolster Zinni's mission
US Vice-President Dick Cheney has called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to make a "100% effort to stamp out terrorism" against Israel.

Mr Cheney was speaking after arriving in Israel, where he was joining US peace envoy General Anthony Zinni in efforts to secure a truce between Israelis and Palestinians.


We call on Chairman Arafat to live up to his commitment and renounce once and for all violence as a political weapon

Dick Cheney
Adding impetus to the US push for a ceasefire, Israel appeared ready to withdraw its troops from Palestinian areas in the West Bank on Monday night where its forces were still deployed following last week's major offensive.

The development came after General Zinni brokered talks between Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs earlier in the day aimed at implementing a US ceasefire plan.

The delicate steps towards restoring calm were threatened on Monday night when Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian near a crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and Palestinian militants fired home-made rockets into Israel from northern Gaza, Israeli military sources reported.

French news agency AFP quoted an Israeli military official as saying the Palestinian who died had explosives strapped to his body.

In Israel, two unguided Qassam-2 rockets landed near the coastal town of Ashkelon, the army said.

There were no reports of any injuries.

Arafat under pressure

The attack came hours after the US vice-president called on Mr Arafat to "renounce violence as a political means".

Yasser Arafat
Cheney does not plan to meet Arafat

Speaking outside the Israeli prime minister's official residence in Jerusalem, Mr Cheney called on the Palestinian leader to "live up to his commitment" to crack down on terrorism.

Mr Cheney also called on Mr Sharon to "alleviate the devastating economic hardship being experienced by innocent Palestinian men, women and children".

The Israeli leader said he was "willing to make painful compromises" to reach peace with the Palestinians, but would not compromise Israel's security.

Mr Cheney was due to hold talks with General Zinni and Mr Sharon on Monday night on efforts towards achieving a ceasefire.

There were no plans for Mr Cheney to meet Mr Arafat on his 24-hour stopover, a decision denounced by Palestinian officials.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, an aide to Mr Arafat, said no senior Palestinian apart from Mr Arafat would meet the US vice-president.

Israeli pullback

For the first time since Israel entered more than half a dozen Palestinian-controlled areas last week, the Israeli defence ministry said Israel would hand "security responsibility" back to the Palestinians on Monday night.

Islamic Jihad members burn American flags in Gaza
Palestinian militants have denounced the US mission

The move - a precondition by the Palestinians for entering ceasefire talks - came after General Zinni held talks with Israeli generals and Palestinian security chiefs in Jerusalem earlier in the day.

Ahmed Eid, a Palestinian commander in Bethlehem, said Israel had agreed to pull its troops out of the West Bank city on Monday night.

Israel has said a withdrawal would depend on Palestinian security forces taking control of areas Israel pulls back from and preventing attacks by Palestinian militants.

A Palestinian security official said Israel would begin withdrawing from Palestinian areas of Gaza on Tuesday, Reuters news agency reported.

Israeli forces still remain in Bethlehem and Beit Jala and around the towns of Nablus and Jenin, after troops withdrew from most of the areas taken over in recent operations late last week.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Yasser Arafat has survived Israeli attempts to marginalise him"
US Vice-President Dick Cheney
"We continue to call upon Chairman Arafat... to renounce... violence"
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
"We have not been approached for a meeting"
See also:

18 Mar 02 | Middle East
Annan denounces Israel's offensive
18 Mar 02 | Middle East
Iraq counters Cheney mission
17 Mar 02 | Middle East
Violence mars US envoy's peace efforts
16 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel's stay-at-home culture
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