Palestinian dies as fighting goes on

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The Independent Online

A teenage Palestinian protester has been shot dead amid renewed fighting in the West Bank.

A teenage Palestinian protester has been shot dead amid renewed fighting in the West Bank.

The 17-year-old died as he took part in a demonstration against Israeli troops, according to reports.

His death came amid fresh peace proposals for stop violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

UN secretary general Kofi Annan has continued his peace efforts, meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Pope John Paul II today said he was deeply anguished by the violence and urged both sides to rediscover the "path of dialogue".

He said: "We are following with deep anguish the grave tension in the Middle East, once again shaken by events which have claimed numerous victims and didn't even spare some of the sacred sites.

"Facing such a dramatic situation, I cannot but urge everyone to end, without hesitation, this spiral of violence, and invite all believers to pray to God that all the nations and responsible parties in the regions will be able to resume the path of dialogue and find again the joy of feeling themselves the common children of God."

US President Bill Clinton appeared to rule out a quick trip to Egypt for a Mideast summit, saying his most important priority was to stop the violence between Israelis and Palestinians and get the peace process back on track.

"My goal is to stop people dying and then get them back together," Clinton said in a question and answer session with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "We've had a couple good days," the president said. "People are really trying. And we're trying to put a way forward that will increase the chances that things will stay calm and more peaceful."

The White House had floated the idea of a Clinton-attended summit on Sunday at Sharm el-Sheik, a Red Sea resort, but the Arabs do not want to hold such a meeting until after an October 21 Arab League meeting in Cairo.

Clinton seemed to accept that judgment, saying he could do a lot by telephone. He said he spoke early today with Annan.

"We don't need just another meeting," Clinton said. "We need to know what we're going to do and how were going to do it."

He said that he or Secretary of State Madeleine Albright might go to the Middle East eventually if that would help.

"I wouldn't overreact to the fact that there won't be a big meeting imminently in Egypt," the president said.

"I don't think you should overread that as a reflection that either the Israelis or the Palestinians do not want to continue the peace process."

Remarking on 12 days of violence, Clinton said, "I think everybody is shocked how quickly and how deeply it got out of hand. And I think the most important thing now is to restore calm."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rejected Clinton's proposal for Egypt to host a summit, saying Israel should first stop threatening Palestinians and Arabs.

"Before such a summit can be convened an appropriate climate should be achieved through an Israeli troop withdrawal from the Palestinian territories," Mubarak said in a letter to Clinton made public by Egyptian Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif.

"Israel should also stop its threats and ultimatums to the Palestinian Authority and any other Arab country," Mubarak said in the letter.

He called on Israel not to repeat its "aggression" against Arab holy sites in east Jerusalem and to accept an international inquiry into two weeks of violence that have killed more than 80 people, mostly Palestinians.

"And because Israel has not accepted these points, Egypt regrets it cannot convene this summit on its territories," Mubarak told Clinton.

Hezbollah also rejected Israeli demands for unconditional release of three soldiers its guerrillas captured in Lebanon and said only a prisoner swap will secure their freedom.

Sheik Naim Kassem, Hezbollah's deputy chief, also rejected UN criticism of the guerrilla ambush that netted the Israeli soldiers, but nevertheless welcomed mediation by Annan.

"The Israeli soldiers won't be out except through an exchange," Kassem said at a news conference held under guard in the Hezbollah stronghold of south Beirut. Israeli leaders have demanded that the guerrillas immediately release the soldiers they snatched near the border in southern Lebanon on Saturday.

Annan, who met with Israeli leaders yesterday, was expected in the Lebanese capital today for talks with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. It was not clear whether he will meet Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Annan's accusations that the guerrilla ambush violated a Security Council resolution ending the Israeli occupation drew criticism in a country that sees itself as the victim.

In a banner headline, the leftist Lebanese daily Al Kifah Al Arabi described Annan's comments in Jerusalem as "giving legitimacy to Israeli aggression" against Lebanon.

"We have done what we did. It was our right," Kassem said.

However, the deputy Hezbollah chief said the guerrillas were willing to listen to the secretary general, whose deputy has met with Nasrallah to try to secure the prisoners' release.

Annan was expected to get an earful of complaints from Lebanon about Israel's refusal to release Lebanese prisoners and a demand for Israel to leave Chebaa Farms, the disputed territory where the weekend ambush took place.

Annan, in turn, was expected to repeat the UN demand that Lebanon reinforce its army presence in the border areas vacated by Israel.

Annan said yesterday that the soldiers were believed in good condition and being treated well. He said the International Committee of the Red Cross in Beirut, which has played a role in past prisoner swaps, should be given access to the Israelis.

Kassem refused to release any information about the captives.

Palestinians have given Hezbollah a list of Palestinians being held in Israel and said the guerrillas were responsive to the idea of adding some to the list of Lebanese prisoners they want exchanged for the soldiers.

Kassem told an Arab television station earlier this week that Hezbollah's "demands will go beyond Lebanese prisoners to include others," but did not elaborate.

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