- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

U.S. special envoys to the Middle East Gen. Anthony Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State Williams Burns ended their first round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders yesterday, declaring both sides had suffered enough.
"We need to end the violence, and we need to get back on the track toward peace," Gen. Zinni told reporters in Ramallah, West Bank, after meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.
The envoys, appointed last week by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, said it is time for a change.
"I had the opportunity firsthand to see the difficulties presented to the Palestinians by the current situation," Gen. Zinni said. "I think both sides have suffered far too much in the last months."
Shortly after the meeting, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a Jewish settlement that Israel considers a neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Gen. Zinni said his mission was to persuade the parties to lay down their arms and implement a cease-fire brokered by CIA Director George J. Tenet, as well as former Sen. George J. Mitchell's broader peace plan.
Both plans have failed to end 14 months of violence, in which more than 900 people have been killed.
Mr. Arafat promised, "100 percent effort to make these efforts succeed, in order to get a comprehensive and lasting peace," and asked Gen. Zinni to draw up "a mechanism and timeline" to implement the Tenet and Mitchell plans.
He also thanked President Bush and Mr. Powell for their public backing of an independent Palestinian state.
Before the meeting, the Americans were given a car tour of the West Bank.
They visited Palestinian refugee camps and Jewish settlements on occupied land. They had toured Israel's borders on Tuesday in an Israeli helicopter accompanied by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, minutes after two Palestinian gunmen killed two Israelis there.
Gen. Zinni, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general with a 35-year career, last headed the U.S. Central Command.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that Gen. Zinni will remain in the region as long as it takes to achieve results; however, Mr. Burns will carry on to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
"Ambassador Burns is heading on to Cairo tomorrow, and then he'll be on to Riyadh, but Gen. Zinni will remain in place and keep working with the two sides to try to achieve what we set out, which is to help them work towards a cease-fire," Mr. Boucher said.
Soon after the meeting with Mr. Arafat yesterday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Jewish settlement of Gilo from the nearby West Bank town of Beit Jala. That area has been a frequent flash point during the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Israel considers Gilo a neighborhood of Jerusalem and has in the past raided Beit Jala after Gilo has come under fire. No casualties were reported in the hours-long battle yesterday.
Mr. Sharon has said that there must be a week without violence before he will accept the Palestinians as a serious partner, but Palestinian leaders argue that the Israeli leader could undermine Mr. Zinni's effort if he sticks to that demand.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, on a visit to Washington yesterday, said Mr. Powell's description of Israel in a speech last week as an occupier was unprecedented and Cairo welcomes it.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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