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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
EU pushes for Mid-East conference
Arrested Palestinians freed near Nablus
Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested then freed
The European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is urging Israel and the Palestinians to create the right climate for peace talks within two months.

Mr Solana, who saw Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Saturday, took his message to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Sunday morning, before talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the afternoon.


It will be a long time before negotiations reach a final settlement. The objective is to establish a timeline

Javier Solana
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Solana called for "effort in order to get adoption of security elements that permit the creation of a climate conducive to constructive political initiative at the end of July".

The diplomacy, which US Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet will join shortly, takes place amid high tension with Israel continuing its raids in the West Bank and the threat of further Palestinian suicide bombings.

Mr Solana said "long negotiations" would be needed before a final settlement could be reached.

BBC correspondent Jonny Dymond in Jerusalem says much will depend on the attitude of the US, and whether or not Israel continues to occupy territories which are supposed to be under Palestinian control.

US envoys

Israel is resisting any resumption of negotiations until Palestinian militants stop their attacks and the Palestinian Authority is reformed.

Ariel Sharon arrives for Sunday's cabinet meeting
Sharon is resisting a swift resumption of talks
US Middle East envoy William Burns and Egyptian presidential adviser Osama al-Baz - who met Mr Sharon on Friday - have told the Israeli leader to work with Mr Arafat.

The Israeli leadership has called Mr Arafat "irrelevant" and accuses him of allowing militants free rein to attack Israel.

George Tenet - author of a 2001 plan to bring a ceasefire in the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation - is currently in Egypt and will arrive in Israel and the Palestinian territories on Monday.

Mr Mubarak is due to travel to the US to meet President Bush in the coming week.

Incursion continues

Israel says it has detained another 10 Palestinians on the third day of its sweeping operation in Nablus, bringing the total of arrests to nearly 60.

The city has been under complete curfew since the occupation began and hundreds of men have been held for questioning and then released.

Israeli radio said four female students from al-Najah university in Nablus were among those held, accused of plotting more suicide attacks.

Palestinian medical sources said a man was killed by Israeli gunfire in the Nablus operations.

Demolition

Israeli press reports say that most Palestinian militants fled as the army arrived in Nablus on Friday and the troops met little resistance as they entered the city and its Balata refugee camp.

On Sunday, the army blew up a house in Balata owned by militant leader Mahmoud Titi - whom Israel assassinated 10 days earlier - saying it was being used as a bomb-making factory.

An Israeli soldier uses a sledge hammer to smash a door in Balata refugee camp, Nablus
Troops have been searching house to house
The night before, soldiers destroyed the family home of his relative Jihad Titi who launched a revenge suicide attack in a suburb of Tel Aviv a week ago.

Troops have pulled out after incursions into Tulkarm and Qalqilya where dozens more Palestinians have been seized.

In another incident, Palestinian priests said Israeli soldiers had blown up a Christian site - St Barbara's shrine - near Ramallah. The army said it had not known that what it described as a cave used by militants was holy to Christians.

And a 14-year-old Palestinian boy has been reported shot in the leg by a Jewish settler who opened fire after school children pelted his car with stones north of Nablus.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonny Dymond
"Quite what the conference would discuss nobody seems to know"

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01 Jun 02 | Middle East
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