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Cease-Fire With Israel May Begin in Near Future, Palestinians Say - 2002-01-05

Palestinian officials say a cease-fire with Israel could begin within the next few days. U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni has been meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials since Thursday to broker the truce and open the way for resuming peace negotiations.

Palestinian officials indicate a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security officials will probably take place on Sunday. Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia also says he expects Mr. Zinni to return to the region within two weeks to see what progress is made in implementing a truce.

U.S. envoy Zinni has been consulting with Israeli and Palestinian officials about what is needed to reach a cease-fire and get the peace talks back on track.

Israel's military acknowledges there has been a sharp drop in the level of violence, but the government complains the Palestinians are not doing enough to eliminate terrorism.

Still, Mr. Zinni and Palestinian officials are expressing some optimism. After his meeting Friday with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Mr. Zinni described conditions as right for progress.

His first peace effort in December collapsed when a new wave of bloodshed erupted during his stay.

The U.S. envoy's mission this time has been clouded by Israel's seizure of a shipload of weapons it says the Palestinian Authority was trying to smuggle into the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel's army chief says the captain and three of the crew were members of the Palestinian naval police. The 50 tons of weapons included anti-tank missiles, rockets, ammunition and mortar launchers.

The Palestinian Authority has denied any knowledge of the boat and accuses Israel of trying to sabotage the Zinni peace mission.