Israelis, French Differ on Path to Mideast Peace, Sharon Says

From Times Wire Services

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ended a quick European trip Friday, saying there was clear disagreement with French leaders over how to stem Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Sharon returned to Israel after a two-day trip to Germany and France aimed at garnering support for Israel's policies. It was his first official visit to Europe as prime minister.

Leaving a morning meeting with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Sharon said that "things were put on the table in a very clear manner, and it is evident that we do not agree on all points." He did not give details.

Officials with Jospin said there were "differences of perception" in how to apply the recommendations of a report by a commission headed by former Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine). The panel's report calls for an end to violence; a six-week cooling-off period; a series of confidence-building measures, including a total freeze on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and, ultimately, a resumption of peace negotiations.

Jospin indicated to Sharon that France feels it is "unrealistic" to wait for a complete end to Palestinian attacks before renewing peace talks, officials said.

Sharon's visit came as Israeli and Palestinian officials traded blame for undermining a cease-fire brokered by CIA Director George J. Tenet that has failed to halt nine months of fighting.

The cease-fire is supposed to open the way for further peace moves based on the Mitchell report.

A U.S.-mediated meeting between Israeli and Palestinian security officials in Tel Aviv ended apparently without agreement on the start of a seven-day truce intended to precede a cooling-off period and the resumption of negotiations.

The Palestinians have said they considered the test period to have concluded Thursday. Israel has said it has not yet begun, arguing that Palestinian violence has not ceased.

Meanwhile, at least 12 Palestinian demonstrators were injured by fire from Israeli soldiers in confrontations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

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