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Arab League General Secretary, Dr Esmat Abdul Majid
"How can this peace process continue- the Isreali's are committing crimes"
 real 28k

UN Secretary General's Spokesman, Fred Ekhart
"International pressure has been a big factor"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Fragile calm in West Bank
Israeli soldiers on patrol in Nazareth
Violence lowered but Israeli soldiers stay vigilant
The intensity of clashes between Israel and the Palestinians has diminished amid high-level international efforts to revive peace talks.

The Israeli army says there has been a significant lull in violence in the West Bank although sporadic clashes there and in the Gaza Strip continued overnight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the two sides are "coming closer together".

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has held further talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders before trying to secure the release of three Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.


It is very important that we take every step with a clear head.

Israeli army chief General Shaul Mofaz

More than 90 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed since the violence erupted nearly two weeks ago.

It was sparked by the visit on 28 September of the controversial Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to a holy site in Jerusalem whose status has proved the most divisive issue in the stalled peace talks.

Still volatile

The head of the Israeli army, Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz, indicated that although the situation on the West Bank was much calmer, it was still volatile.

"There is still a chance it could go the other way and it is very important that we take every step with a clear head... in order to avoid a situation of war in the region," General Mofaz said.

Reports speak of overnight clashes between Jews and Israeli Arabs in Jerusalem and the Israeli town of Acre.

But the violence is on a much lower scale than previous exchanges.

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says the atmosphere for peace-making does seem to have improved after Israel extended its deadline for an end to Palestinian violence.


I just have to believe they are not going to let this thing spin out of control

President Bill Clinton

A statement from Mr Barak's office said the talks with Mr Annan in Jerusalem were a continuation of their discussions on Tuesday, but gave no further details.

US 'working like crazy'

After meeting both Mr Barak and Mr Arafat on Tuesday, Mr Annan urged the two men to begin talks again, saying neither side was blameless.

"Let's get to work - stop the violence, move back to the negotiating table," Mr Annan said.

US President Bill Clinton says America is "working like crazy" to revive the Middle East peace process.

"I just have to believe they are not going to let this thing spin out of control," Mr Clinton told members of his Democrat party on Tuesday night.

No summit decision

Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan: Efforts move to Lebanon

It appears Washington has still not decided whether to convene a summit, even though Mr Barak has dropped his condition that he would only attend once Mr Arafat had ended the Palestinian violence.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has arrived in the region to add to the diplomatic efforts of Mr Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and the European Union's senior foreign policy official, Javier Solana.

Mr Ivanov has been updating President Putin on latest developments.

"The two sides are coming closer together, which allows us to hope that the peace process may be restored," Mr Putin told reporters.

Pope John Paul II has made an impassioned appeal for peace.

"I can only beg everyone to put an end to this spiral of violence without delay," the Pope said in Rome.

Hezbollah has agreed to talk to Mr Annan over the release of three Israeli soldiers it captured on Saturday.

"If Mr Annan brings from Israel precise and acceptable elements for us, we have no objection to his mediation," Hezbollah's Sheikh Naim Kassem told reporters in Beirut.

Israel says there will be severe consequences if the troops are not freed.

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See also:

09 Oct 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Turmoil in the territories
07 Oct 00 | Americas
Clinton's day and night diplomacy
11 Oct 00 | Media reports
Arafat seen playing the 'Hamas card'
10 Oct 00 | Middle East
Kidnapped Israelis 'wounded'
09 Oct 00 | Middle East
Fury engulfs Arab world
08 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Analysis: Violence that haunts Jerusalem
08 Oct 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Arab world protests
11 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Cook's Middle East peace mission
05 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Eyewitness: Battle for Jerusalem
11 Oct 00 | Middle East
Israel's Arabs: Enemies within?
10 Oct 00 | Middle East
Q&A: Crisis in the Middle East
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