Bush Envoys Work on 2 Fronts to Preserve Mideast Cease-Fire

From Times Wire Services

Two senior Bush administration officials worked in tandem Friday to try to hold together an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, with CIA Director George J. Tenet convening a security meeting and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns seeking to reopen a political dialogue.

The meetings represented an intensification of U.S. diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute despite the Bush administration's determination to avoid the deep involvement maintained by the Clinton administration.

It coincided with an effort by officials from the European Union, Russia and the United Nations to try to sustain the lull in the 8-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The U.N. announced Friday that Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit the region next week to try to give the international effort a further push.

Marking the Bush administration's highest level of intervention yet, Tenet brought Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs together to try to renew their cooperation and cement a weeklong truce.

Palestinian militants who accuse Tenet of trying to divide their people vowed not to end the intifada, or uprising. Some in the West Bank city of Nablus burned an effigy of the CIA chief and urged him "not to equate the killer with the victim."

Tenet and the security chiefs met for nearly three hours at Palestinian offices less than a mile from an intersection in Ramallah where Israeli forces and Palestinians exchange gunfire almost every Friday. This Friday, those guns were quiet.

A Palestinian security official said Tenet gave both sides a written proposal containing a timeline for implementing commitments made in October to work toward resuming peace negotiations as well as for meeting the recommendations of a commission led by former Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Maine).

Both sides were asked to respond to the proposal Sunday, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Abdel Aziz Rantissi, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, said Tenet's visit won't stop the Palestinian uprising.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Burns that there was no chance of a Palestinian state as long as Palestinian militias were active on the ground, Israel's Army Radio reported.

"There are many difficulties, and this week will be a week of great importance," Peres told reporters as he headed into the meeting.

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