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Top Palestinian, Israeli Lawmakers Appeal for Dialogue - 2002-01-23

As violence simmers in the Middle East, the presidents of the Palestinian and Israeli parliaments are in Paris Wednesday at the invitation of France's National Assembly. The two men are using the occasion to launch a joint appeal for dialogue, and for more support from the international community.

Israeli Knesset President Avraham Burg and Palestinian Assembly President Ahmed Qurai clasped hands Wednesday as they received a standing ovation from French lawmakers, including Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, at the National Assembly in Paris.

The two men are in Paris through Thursday, meeting with academics, journalists and politicians, including French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin.

In an interview with VOA, Mr. Burg said he would address the Palestinian assembly in the near future, even though Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has forbidden him to. He said he was using his trip to Paris to plead for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and for more political backing from the international community.

"Coming here is both to talk to the public opinion here, and to talk to the public opinion back there, to recruit and to reorganize the world's motivation to help us to solve the problem," he said.

Like Mr. Burg, Mr. Qurai called for more involvement by the Europeans. He also urged the Bush administration to play a more active role.

"Up to now, they are watching the situation. It is a very dangerous game -to watch, and not to participate," he said.

France and other European Union countries are generally sympathetic to the creation of a Palestinian state, but stress Israel's security must be guaranteed. The French government on Wednesday called for negotiations to resume between the two sides following Tuesday's shooting spree by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, just a few hours away in Strasbourg, France, another moderate Israeli politician, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, was giving an address to European lawmakers. He appealed to the United States and Europe to stand jointly against acts of terrorism by Palestinians.