Israel extends deadline

Barak 'would attend summit' after Clinton intervenes
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The Independent Online

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak today extended a deadline to the Palestinians to stop violence and his spokesman said the Israeli leader would attend a US-hosted Mideast summit if one was called. Israeli government spokesman Nachman Shai emerged from a Cabinet meeting and announced the decision without setting a new deadline. "We will act to restore calm to the extent that it depends on us, while also giving Yasser Arafat a certain additional time to do what he needs to do. There is intense international diplomatic activity which we cannot reject or ignore," he told The Associated Press. Shai said Israel preferred to wait and see how the situation developed on the ground before closing the door to further negotiations. Barak had issued an ultimatum to Arafat two days ago - stop the violence by Monday night, or Israel will consider the peace talks dead and will respond forcefully to new attacks. Before convening his Cabinet, Barak expressed doubt about whether the Palestinian leader was ready t

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak today extended a deadline to the Palestinians to stop violence and his spokesman said the Israeli leader would attend a US-hosted Mideast summit if one was called. Israeli government spokesman Nachman Shai emerged from a Cabinet meeting and announced the decision without setting a new deadline. "We will act to restore calm to the extent that it depends on us, while also giving Yasser Arafat a certain additional time to do what he needs to do. There is intense international diplomatic activity which we cannot reject or ignore," he told The Associated Press. Shai said Israel preferred to wait and see how the situation developed on the ground before closing the door to further negotiations. Barak had issued an ultimatum to Arafat two days ago - stop the violence by Monday night, or Israel will consider the peace talks dead and will respond forcefully to new attacks. Before convening his Cabinet, Barak expressed doubt about whether the Palestinian leader was ready to resume peace negotiations and there were signs that Israel was uncertain about a summit. Shai said Israel was now ready to go. "If the U.S. president invites, it isn't pleasant to say no." U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke by phone Monday night with Barak and Arafat. Clinton has been considering convening a Mideast summit to try to salvage the negotiations. The Israeli decision came amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts, including visits by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian leader to the Israeli decision. Arafat has said he would only consider a resumption of peace talks once Israel agrees to the formation of an international commission of inquiry into the 12 days of violence that have killed 88 people, most Palestinians. Still violence raged through Israel and the West Bank. A gun battle erupted between Palestinian paramilitaries and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Hebron and shots were fired at the Jewish settlement of Efrat. In Hebron, an Israeli helicopter gunship hovered above the scene, but did not shoot. In towns across Israel, Jews and Arabs attacked each other in perhaps the worst civil strife in years. In Tel Aviv, hundreds of Jews chanted "Death to the Arabs," burned tires and smashed the windows of Arab cars, prompting the mayor of the usually tranquil metropolis to ask residents to stay indoors. In Jerusalem, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli motorists on a main road, making it impassable. Earlier, Israeli army commanders said they were ready to increase the fire power if the Palestinians did not stop shooting. "We will not let Palestinians kill another Israeli," said Col. Gal Hirsch, the army commander in the Ramallah region of the West Bank. Hirsch said his troops had held their fire for two days - despite provocations - to allow Arafat time to rein in his gunmen. Annan met briefly with acting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, before holding talks with Arafat in Gaza. "The action must shift from the street to the bargaining table," Annan told Ben-Ami. Annan was not the only world leader trying hard to get Arafat and Barak to talk. Arafat had just returned from a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Shaath said Arafat had also taken calls from French, Italian, Turkish and Spanish leaders on Monday. Ivanov's mission was especially focused on the situation along the Lebanese border: a militant Islamic Lebanese guerrilla group had captured three Israeli soldiers on Saturday, an act that Hezbollah guerrillas dedicated to the Palestinians. The Russian foreign minster was to hold talks with Ben-Ami later Tuesday. Barak had threatened to respond "with force" and said he held responsible Lebanon and Syria, the main power there. "The priority now is to stop the escalation, refrain from using force and resume the dialogue," Ivanov said after meeting with Lebanese leaders. Fighting was sporadic over Sunday and Monday, which coincided with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. There were brief gun battles in the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Nablus, and settlers reported gunfire aimed at their vehicles as they headed home from Yom Kippur visits. Near Nablus, where American-born Hillel Lieberman was found dead over the weekend, settlers descended on Arab villages and stoned houses. The Palestinians came out and threw back the stones, until the army stepped in to separate them.

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