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Zinni Expresses Some Hope After First Round of Meetings

U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni met Friday night with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after holding talks earlier in the day with Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other government officials. Mr. Zinni is trying to broker a truce to end the bloodshed that has claimed more than one thousand victims in the past 18 months.

U.S. envoy Zinni has expressed some hope for progress after his first round of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials. After his talks with Palestinian leader Arafat Friday night he said both sides appear committed to getting out of what Mr. Zinni describes as a terrible situation. For his part, Mr. Arafat told reporters he remains committed to the peace process started more than a decade ago.

Early Friday morning Israel re-deployed its troops around Ramallah and two other towns in the West Bank as well as a refugee camp in Gaza. Palestinians in the West Bank later emerged from their homes to assess the damage from Israel's latest military incursions and rush out to buy food and other supplies. Israeli tanks crushed cars and uprooted telephone poles as they pulled out of Ramallah early Friday morning.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has insisted the tanks and troops must clear out of the West Bank before a cease-fire can be achieved. He has complained that Israeli tanks remain on the outskirts of Ramallah and other positions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Shortly after arriving in Israel on Thursday, Mr. Zinni met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and repeated U.S. demands that Israel pull its military forces out of all Palestinian-controlled territories. At the same time the Bush administration has called on Mr. Arafat to end the violence against Israelis.

Mr. Zinni's two previous efforts to broker a truce failed but he is expressing cautious optimism that this time he can succeed. He continues his talks with Palestinian officials on Saturday.