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Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Powell talks peace with Arafat
Yasser Arafat held talks with Colin Powell inside his compound
The meeting went on longer than expected
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has spent some three hours in talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to try to secure a ceasefire after weeks of spiralling violence in the Middle East.

The two met inside Mr Arafat's besieged and bullet-scarred headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah amid tight security, with Israeli troops ringing the compound.

When the Israelis complete the full withdrawal, we will carry out our obligations

Saeb Erekat
Senior Palestinian negotiator

Their meeting, postponed following Friday's suicide bombing in Jerusalem, came after Mr Arafat bowed to a key American demand and publicly condemned terrorism.

No statement was issued after the talks, but Mr Powell described the meeting as "useful and constructive".

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat agreed with Mr Powell's assessment. He told the BBC that US and Palestinian teams would meet for further talks on Monday and that Mr Powell would return to Ramallah on Tuesday.

Mr Arafat had "absolutely" pledged to curb violence, said Mr Erekat - but only after a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Israeli Government spokesman Gideon Meir said Israel would withdraw its troops from the West Bank only if there was a promise from the Palestinians not to send any more suicide bombers.

The BBC's Jon Leyne, who is travelling with Mr Powell, says a prolonged process of negotiation has only just started.

The length of Sunday's meeting, our correspondent says, suggests they got into some detail over how to reach a ceasefire and move on to political talks.

Tough demands from Mr Powell for an end to Palestinian violence were no doubt met by equally tough calls from Mr Arafat for an end to the Israeli military action.

Mr Powell is due to have a further meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later on Sunday.

Restrictions relaxed

While the Ramallah meeting was going on, the Israeli army announced that it would end its sweeping ban on journalists entering occupied Palestinian areas, which had been designated closed military zones.

Yasser Arafat
Arafat made the condemnation the US wanted to hear
However, some restrictions are understood to remain in place: on Mr Arafat's compound in Ramallah, Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and Jenin refugee camp - scene of some of the fiercest fighting.

The Palestinians have called for an international inquiry into the situation at the camp, but the Israelis say the allegations of hundreds of deaths is Palestinian propaganda.

In another development, the Israeli High Court has thrown out petitions by several human rights groups and Arab Israeli members of parliament aimed at preventing the Israeli army from removing the dead in Jenin.

Desolate scene

Israeli bulldozers had spent the night clearing some of the wreckage from around the Ramallah compound.

But it was still a desolate landscape that greeted Mr Powell as he came to the heart of what amounts to a war zone.

Pools of sewage and abandoned cars riddled with bullet holes littered the streets, while inside the compound was a sordid stench, resulting from 15 days spent without water or electricity.

  Detailed map of the West Bank operation

Witnesses said Mr Arafat looked drawn as he greeted Mr Powell. The two men were surrounded by Palestinian bodyguards and US security agents carrying sub-machine guns.

Afterwards Mr Powell said they had exchanged a variety of ideas and discussed possible steps forward.

Mr Arafat did not emerge from his compound "for security reasons", Mr Erekat said as he gestured towards Israeli soldiers occupying nearby positions.


The meeting went ahead a day after Mr Arafat issued a public statement condemning terrorism, in line with US demands.

His condemnation made specific reference to Friday's suicide attack in west Jerusalem which killed six Israelis.

However, Israel accused Mr Arafat of saying one thing and doing another.

Mr Powell's mission was thrown into crisis by the suicide bombing on Friday.

Earlier in the day, the secretary of state had been unable to persuade Prime Minister Sharon to provide a timetable for withdrawing his troops.

In an apparent rebuke to the Bush administration, Mr Sharon said: "Nobody will force upon us any decisions or resolutions that might affect our future."

The BBC's Fiona Werge
"Colin Powell will now discuss the outcome with Ariel Sharon"
Michael Tarazi, Palestinian Legal Advisor:
"My sources indicate there will be another meeting between Arafat and Powell on tuesday"
Tzipi Livni, Israeli government minister
"We had to enter Palestinian territories only to fight the infrastructure of terror"
See also:

14 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israeli army can clear Jenin dead
13 Apr 02 | Middle East
Palestinian 'shot dead' in Bethlehem
13 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arafat's statement on terrorism
13 Apr 02 | Middle East
Arafat weighs his options
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Eyewitness: Jerusalem attack
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel stalls over troop withdrawal
12 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
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