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Arafat, Blair Propose Revived Mideast Peace Talks - 2001-10-15

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have agreed on the need to revive Middle East peace negotiations.

Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Blair emerged from 90 minutes of talks to declare their desire for a reinvigorated Middle East peace process. At a news conference, Mr. Arafat called for the immediate resumption of negotiations with Israel.

Mr. Arafat said the goal should be the creation of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, existing in peace and security alongside Israel.

Mr. Arafat also rejected attempts by alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden to link the Palestinian cause to the attacks last month in the United States. "There can be no mix between our just cause and the objectives and methods that are unjust, like what happened recently in the United States," he said.

Prime Minister Blair said the time is right to reinvigorate the peace process and stop the bloodshed in the Middle East.

Mr. Blair was asked what pressure could be applied to get Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to agree to negotiate with Mr. Arafat. "There are ideas being worked upon by the Americans, by others," he said. "And without entering into the detail of that now, I believe that it is possible to move this process forward again. But the will has got to be there to do it.

Mr. Blair has been focusing on the Middle East peace process in the broader context of maintaining Arab support for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign, which includes military strikes against the bin Laden terrorist network and the Taleban leadership in Afghanistan.

Mr. Blair visited Egypt and Oman last week, and he will host Jordan's King Abdullah on Tuesday.