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Zinni to Hold More Security Talks Sunday - 2002-03-23


U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni still plans to hold another round of talks Sunday with Israeli and Palestinian security officials to thrash out a cease-fire plan. His mission has been threatened by a series of suicide bomb attacks against Israelis.

Mr. Zinni has already met several times with leaders on both sides. He has also held at least two lengthy discussions with Palestinian and Israeli security officials, and plans another round for Sunday.

Three suicide bombing attacks in as many days had threatened to derail the talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is holding Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat responsible for curbing the violence. Washington has also complained that Mr. Arafat is not doing enough.

U.S. President George Bush says Vice President Dick Cheney could still meet Mr. Arafat early next week, if he does more to end the violence and create conditions for a cease-fire.

It will be up to U.S. envoy Zinni to determine if the Palestinian leader has followed through on his pledge to stop 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

There were sporadic incidents of violence reported in Gaza on Saturday. In the West Bank city of Hebron, several thousand Palestinians called for revenge, as they marched in a funeral procession for a 20-year-old man shot on Friday.

Elsewhere in the West Bank Friday, a suicide bomber killed himself and wounded an Israeli soldier at a military checkpoint.

It was the third suicide bombing in as many days. Bomb attacks in northern Israel and in the heart of Jerusalem killed at least 10 Israelis and injured dozens of others.

The violence has overshadowed Mr. Zinni's efforts to broker a cease-fire. The plan calls for Israel to pull its troops out of Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza. It also requires the Palestinian leadership to confiscate illegal weapons and end the militant attacks against Israelis.

Both sides say they are committed to achieving a truce, but disagree over who should take the first steps.

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