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Israel Seeks to Ease Dispute with US - 2001-10-06

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke late Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to express his appreciation for the "deep friendship and special relations between the U.S. and Israel, and especially with President Bush."

News of the telephone conversation was released in a statement from Mr. Sharon's office. The message of support is seen as an effort by Israel to end the dispute that erupted a few days ago when Mr. Sharon seemed to suggest that the U.S. was wooing Arab states into its coalition against terrorism at the expense of Israel.

At that time Mr. Sharon warned the U.S. and other western democracies not to "satisfy the Arabs" at Israel's expense. He even drew parallels to 1938 when European powers gave Nazi leader Adolf Hitler free rein to invade Czechoslovakia in an attempt to appease him on the eve of World War II.

Washington responded quickly and publicly. White House spokesman Ari Fleisher called Mr. Sharon's remarks "unacceptable" and assured Israel of continued U.S. support.

In the West Bank town of Hebron, Israeli forces consolidated their positions Saturday, fortifying areas where about 500 Jewish settlers live among about 130,000 Palestinians. The divided city has often been a flash-point throughout the past year. Israeli tanks and troops moved into the area Friday in response to shooting attacks against Israelis in Hebron and elsewhere.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yassser Arafat agreed on a cease-fire more than a week ago, but it has not taken hold.

The Palestinian leadership met late Friday and called on Palestinians to respect the cease-fire. In a sharply worded statement, it warned that any violation is a serious act which harms the national interest. A similar statement was issued Thursday by the PLO executive committee.

Radical Palestinian and Islamic groups have repeatedly rejected calls for a cease-fire, and one of Mr. Arafat's top lieutenants, Marwan Barghouti has remained defiant, saying the uprising, or intifada would continue.