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US Envoy Zinni to Meet Arafat Friday - 2002-03-15

U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni meets with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Friday following talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other government officials. Mr. Zinni is trying to end the bloodshed that has claimed more than 1,000 victims in the past 18 months.

Israel re-deployed its troops around Ramallah and two other towns in the West Bank as well as a refugee camp in Gaza. Palestinians in the West Bank emerged from their homes to assess the damage from Israel's latest military incursions. Tanks crushed cars and uprooted telephone poles as they pulled out of Ramallah early Friday morning.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wants the tanks and troops out of the West Bank altogether. He told reporters Israeli tanks remain on the outskirts of Ramallah and other positions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Top Arafat aide Saeb Erekat said Mr. Arafat will present some ideas for a ceasefire to U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni when they meet later in the evening. But Palestinian officials say they will not negotiate a truce with Israel until the troops are out of the West Bank and Gaza.

Mr. Zinni has already met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other government officials. In his talks with Mr. Sharon Thursday night, Mr. Zinni repeated U.S. demands that Israel pull its military forces out of all Palestinian-controlled territories.

Sporadic gunfire was reported Friday even as U.S. envoy Zinni pursued an opening toward a ceasefire that could end months of bloodshed. Mr. Zinni's two previous efforts to broker a truce failed but he is expressing hopes that this time he can succeed.