Britain and US call for peace

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Britain and the US have made further pleas for peace as Middle East violence spread today.

Britain and the US have made further pleas for peace as Middle East violence spread today.

Tony Blair spoke to President Bill Clinton by telephone about the possibility of reviving peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook also urged the two sides to stop fighting and begin dialogue.

And UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived back in Jerusalem this evening. It is not known if he has peace talks arranged.

It followed an escalation in hostilities, with Israeli gunships firing on Palestinian areas after two of its soldiers were murdered by a mob.

Mr Cook, in Jordan, said: "This is a tragedy for the families of the soldiers and a tragedy for the Middle East which makes the situation even more difficult and dangerous than it already was.

"With each death it becomes all the more important for everyone to act with restraint and with each death it becomes all the more urgent for all of us to support our friends in the region to work for an end to violence.

"We must keep trying we must not abandon hope."

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called for Israel and the Palestinians to immediately stop fighting and resume negotiations.

She said: "We are in a very sad and difficult period" in the effort to negotiate the peace process."

The US said it was "gravely concerned" about the possibility that fighting in the Middle East would spread.

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