Clinton pleads with Barak and Arafat for peace

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The Independent Online

President Bill Clinton has called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and asked them to restore calm amid an outburst of Mideast violence just two days after their agreement at a summit in Egypt.

President Bill Clinton has called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and asked them to restore calm amid an outburst of Mideast violence just two days after their agreement at a summit in Egypt.

"We understand that this will be a day-to-day process, but we expect the parties to be vigilant in complying with what was agreed to in Sharm el-Sheik," White House deputy press secretary Nanda Chitre said.

The president spoke with Arafat on Thursday while flying to Connecticut for a fund-raising appearance. He reached Barak before speaking at the fund-raiser.

"He expressed concern to both leaders about the incidents of violence," Chitre said. "He encouraged both leaders to implement steps that are called for in the Sharm el-Sheik agreement and to do all that they can to restore calm in the region." Clinton brokered the summit agreement between the two leaders.

In his talk at the fund-raiser, Clinton lamented how quickly his work on Middle East peace has been jeopardized by the rapid rise of violence. "As we've seen in the Middle East, it's easy to have seven years of hard work chunked out the door in no time," he said.

The president made the calls after Israeli combat helicopters, attempting to rescue Jewish settlers trapped on a rocky West Bank hillside, traded heavy fire with Palestinian gunmen in a five-hour shootout. Two people died and at least 18 were wounded.

Barak declared it a "gross violation" of a truce announced two days earlier. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis said the other side fired first.

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