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Arafat Offers Cease-Fire with International Supervision - 2003-09-22

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has offered to reach a cease-fire with Israel, on condition that international monitors supervise peacemaking efforts.

Mr. Arafat is making new efforts to reassert his authority, offering to reach what he calls a total cease-fire with Israel.

The Palestinian president proposed the latest truce, despite moves by the United States and Israel to isolate him from the international community.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed Monday that Mr. Arafat made the offer in meetings with three of the representatives of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers - Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The fourth representative, the United States, has refused to deal with Mr. Arafat.

Mr. Erekat said Mr. Arafat had cited conditions for reaching what he called a total cease-fire, including sending international monitors to encourage implementation of the road map to peace plan.

The plan, which is supported by the Quartet, calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Israel has given its support to the road map, but has ruled out negotiations with Mr. Arafat, whom it blames for orchestrating much of the violence.

President Bush's administration has also broken off contacts with Mr. Arafat. Mr. Bush says Mr. Arafat failed as a leader of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Bush made the comment as Mr. Arafat received a boost in popularity, following Israel's recent threat to remove the Palestinian leader.

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly against Israel's position last week.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dismissed the U.N. resolution, and reaffirmed his government's policy of treating Mr. Arafat as "an obstacle to peace."

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli forces continued to search for suspected Palestinian militants. On Monday, Israeli soldiers used bulldozers to demolish a building in Hebron, crushing to death a wanted Hamas activist.

Authorities said the fugitive had gone into hiding in the house, refused to surrender and opened fire on troops attempting to arrest him.

Israeli soldiers then razed the building on top of the gunman, who continued to shoot until he was buried by the collapsing walls.