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CIA Director Arrives in Middle East


The director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, has arrived in the Mideast, where he will meet with top Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss ways to help end more than 20 months of violence.

Mr. Tenet is holding talks with top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and is expected to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Tuesday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The CIA director is expected to focus on efforts to reform the Palestinian Authority's security services and resume counter terrorism cooperation with Israel.

Mr. Tenet's mission could be complicated by a Palestinian court decision ordering the release from jail of Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Mr. Saadat is wanted by Israel in connection with last October's assassination of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi. The Palestinian court ruled there is no evidence linking him to the killing.

It was not immediately clear when or if Mr. Saadat will be released from jail.

The PFLP leader is being confined as part of a deal that freed Mr. Arafat from virtual house arrest by Israeli forces early last month.

Israeli officials were sharply critical of the court's decision, warning they will prevent Mr. Saadat from going free.

Meanwhile, Israel is continuing its raids into Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank.

Israeli troops entered the Ain Bet-Alma refugee camp in Nablus, conducting searches and making arrests.

Soldiers in armored vehicles also raided the West Bank town of Qalqilya.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo says he believes Mr. Tenet's mission to the region will fail if Israeli military incursions continue. "If Mr. Tenet is only coming to discuss the arrangements for rebuilding the security of the Palestinian Authority, I think his mission will not succeed," he said. "To build security means first of all to create conditions for real security and this cannot be achieved if the siege around all the Palestinian cities continues and if the incursions in all Palestinian territories continue."

The Israeli military raids into the West Bank have continued despite visits by U.S. and European diplomats trying to calm the conflict.

Palestinians say such incursions and blockades across the West Bank will make it very difficult to carry out reforms.

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