CIA chief George Tenet, on a "crucial" mission to shore up the threatened Middle East ceasefire, was preparing Thursday for separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as clashes on the ground continued.
Tenet arrived Wednesday in Jordan for talks with Jordanian officials and US special regional envoy William Burns, after meeting in Egypt with President Hosni Mubarak, reports said.
According to AFP, US officials were giving little away on the progress of Tenet's visit, releasing few details of his talks and no timetable for his meetings in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington: "The goal...is to start serious discussion at the security level about how to make sure the ceasefire continues," he said.
A senior Israeli official described Tenet's mission as "crucial" and said his separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian security figures would guide a US decision on applying the Mitchell report recommendations for halting the conflict.
In Cairo, Mubarak and Tenet discussed ways to ease the tension between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Mubarak called upon Israel and the PA to convene joint security meetings "as soon as possible," in order to prevent an escalation of the violence, said the daily Al Ahram.
He also called upon the sides to make use of the current ceasefire in order to resume security negotiations, before the implementation of the Mitchell commission's report.
Mubarak warned that the continuing tension threatened the stability of other regions in the world, saying "there is no way of knowing where the next terrorist attack might take place," according to the paper.
Mubarak added that no expense should be spared in the implementation of the Mitchell report, and the sooner that that implementation could take place, the more hope it would give to the Palestinians.
"We will assist both sides in resuming the negotiations," Mubarak said, "since the continued violence could shake the current stability, and harm, both directly and indirectly, foreign interests in the area."
Following talks with Mubarak, Tenet arrived in Amman, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters, declining to give specifics of his visits thus far except to say that in Jordan, the CIA chief would be seeing US special Middle East envoy William Burns.
"Director Tenet stopped in Cairo early this morning for consultations with Egyptian officials," Boucher told reporters. "He's now in Amman, Jordan, for discussions with Jordanian officials and with Ambassador Burns."
Boucher said Tenet would be leaving Jordan shortly for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials but declined to say when or where those talks would be or whether Tenet would make other stops in the region before them.
"He will soon depart (Amman) for a series of meetings with the Israelis and the Palestinians," he said.
Meanwhile, Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would ask Tenet to pressure Arafat into calling for a “complete end to the violence and incitement and specifically push him to arrest Islamic Jihad and Hamas activists.”
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said Wednesday that Israel would not agree to begin implementing the Mitchell report until the “violence” had totally ended.
According to one source, Israel gave Arafat a list of “34 names of activists who it wants the PA to arrest.”
"Arafat has claimed for two days that he had not received the list, and now he has it," said the source.
"If the Palestinians do not stop the Hamas and Jihad activists who plan the suicide attacks, any ceasefire is a joke. If all Arafat intended was to stop the shooting from [PA-controlled] Area A, then it's not serious."
Should Tenet return to Washington with a positive report, Burns will return to the area to begin discussions on how to implement the Mitchell report.
The report, released last month by an international committee headed by former US senator George Mitchell, called for a halt to “violence,” followed by a series of confidence-building measures, including a freeze on Jewish settlement construction and a Palestinian crackdown on anti-Israeli attacks, with the aim of reviving peace talks.
Since the outbreak of the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict last September, Reuters reports that Palestinians have killed approximately 88 Israelis with weapons ranging from stones and knives to machineguns and car bombs. The latest suicide bombing raises that toll by at least 20. Israeli military sources have reported well over 600 injuries to Israelis of Jewish descent.
In the same time period, according to CNN, Israeli soldiers and armed Jewish settlers have killed 13 Arab Israelis and 450 Palestinians with weapons ranging from machineguns and tanks to US-made Apache helicopter gunships and F-16s.
According to Amnesty International, nearly 100 of the Palestinians killed were children.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society has reported over 14,000 Palestinians wounded.
Jewish author Noam Chomsky, who according to a New York Times Book Review article is “arguably the most important intellectual alive,” has been quoted as saying: “State terrorism is an extreme form of terrorism, generally much worse than individual terrorism because it has the resources of a state behind it.” – Albawaba.com
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