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US Envoy Meets with Israeli, Palestinian Leaders - 2002-01-04

U.S. peace envoy Anthony Zinni is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. During his four-day mission, Mr. Zinni is trying to get both sides to implement a cease-fire and take steps to resume peace talks. Israel's military is continuing its hunt for terrorist suspects in Palestinian-ruled areas, despite Mr. Zinni's visit.

Israeli soldiers raided a Palestinian village near the West Bank town of Nablus early Friday morning, less than a day after easing roadblocks and checkpoints elsewhere in the West Bank.

The military operations were carried out a few hours before U.S. envoy Zinni met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at his farm in the southern Negev. The two men focused their discussions on what it will take to implement a U.S. framework for resuming peace talks. The first step of a cease-fire is proving the most difficult to achieve.

Mr. Zinni's first effort to broker a truce collapsed early in December when a new wave of violence erupted.

Prime Minister Sharon insists on seven days of absolute calm. He complains that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not doing enough to end the violence.

The Palestinians say they will show Mr. Zinni how much they have done to curb terrorism. They point to the Israeli military statistics that show a sharp decline in the level of violence since Mr. Arafat made a public appeal for calm in mid-December.

Mr. Zinni meets with Yasser Arafat later in the day in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah. The Palestinian leader has been a virtual prisoner there since early December, when Israel intensified military operations in Palestinian-ruled areas, and barred Mr. Arafat from traveling out of Ramallah to attend holiday festivities in Bethlehem.

Mr. Zinni on Thursday met with top Israeli security officers to review the situation. The U.S. envoy is expected to do the same with Palestinian officials before ending his four-day mission.