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Egyptian, Syrian Leaders Meet on Palestinian Crisis - 2001-12-09


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is in Syria for talks about the crisis in the Palestinian territories with President Bashar al Assad. The two presidents meet amid promises from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to control militants from the Hamas and Jihad movements, which are blamed for last weekend's suicide bombings that killed more than two dozen Israelis.

Israel has responded with air strikes against Palestinian Authority targets, most of them symbols of Mr. Arafat's power. One missile attack struck just meters away from Mr. Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher made his first official visit to Israel in an effort to negotiate a truce in the 14-month-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Hamas' headquarters is located in Damascus. Arab political analyst Sa'id Sadek Amin says Mr. Mubarak is likely to ask Syria to play a greater role in restraining Palestinian militant groups.

Mr. Amin also says leaders throughout the Arab world are quietly preparing for a post-Arafat era with a growing view that Mr. Arafat may have lost his ability to achieve statehood for the Palestinian people. "When the Israelis began to bomb Arafat's headquarters and airport, and many of the symbols of the Palestinian presidency," he explained, "there is a great sense of feeling in the Middle East that we are going to deal now with a post-Arafat era, especially after the failure of the Egyptian foreign minister's visit to Israel."

In an interview on Egyptian television, Mr. Arafat called for Israel to stop its aggression, pull its troops out of the occupied territories and honor past agreements. In another interview with Associated Press, Mr. Arafat said he will not shy away from a confrontation with the militant Hamas and Jihad groups in order to revive hopes for peace in the region.

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