- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

From combined dispatches
JERUSALEM Responding to U.S. prodding, Israel and Palestinians pressed on with truce talks yesterday despite another Palestinian suicide bombing the third in three days but neither side reported progress.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, claimed responsibility for the latest attack. The bomb wounded an Israeli army officer at a military roadblock just inside the West Bank.
The Israeli military said the bomber had intended to blow himself up in Israel but detonated the explosives prematurely when he was stopped by soldiers in a spot check. The assailant had been riding in a van with two other men, who fled after the explosion, said Brig. Gen. Gershon Yitzhak, commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank.
[In Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush said yesterday that a meeting between Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Mr. Arafat is still possible.
["A meeting could happen, if and when Chairman Arafat performs, does what he's supposed to do," Mr. Bush said, referring to the Palestinian leader quelling violence against Israelis.
The president said he was relying on special U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni's assessment of the situation from the region.]
In the Gaza Strip, troops fatally shot a Palestinian trying to break through a fence into Israel, military sources said.
Suicide bombings on Wednesday and Thursday were carried out by the militant Islamic Jihad and by the Al Aqsa militia, respectively. In all, 10 Israelis were killed and dozens wounded in those attacks.
The bombings threatened tentative plans for Mr. Cheney to meet with Mr. Arafat next week in Egypt. "As of now, the conditions have not been met" for any return trip to the region by Mr. Cheney, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday.
Yesterday morning, Gen. Zinni met Mr. Arafat and delivered a stern message, saying the Palestinian leader had not done enough to prevent attacks on Israelis.
During a photo opportunity, the tension between Mr. Arafat and Gen. Zinni was apparent, and neither tried to hide it as they looked at the cameras Gen. Zinni stern-faced and Mr. Arafat dejected, leaning his head on his left hand.
Yesterday's truce talks, held at the urging of the United States, lasted for more than three hours, but no agreement was reached, Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Yarden Vatikai said.
"We raised, of course, what is demanded of the Palestinians in order to stop this awful terror," he said.
Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub said the meeting was tense, with the Israelis focusing mostly on the suicide bombings while the Palestinians complained about Israeli army incursions into Palestinian territory.
He said the Americans had written an analysis of the two sides' papers but made no proposals of their own.
He said another session was set for tomorrow.
Both Israel and the Palestinians have endorsed a cease-fire plan brokered last year by CIA Director George J. Tenet, but they disagree on the timetable for implementation, with each side insisting the other take the first steps.



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