Powell, Arafat Talks On Again
After US Demand Met

By Elaine Monaghan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Secretary of State Colin Powell rescheduled a meeting with Yasser Arafat for Sunday in which he is expected to push for cease-fire as a first step toward reviving talks on a final peace settlement.
Seeking to put back on track a peace mission dogged by unceasing Israeli-Palestinian violence, Powell will head to Arafat's besieged headquarters in Ramallah in the West Bank, where Israel has been waging a two-week-long offensive.
Powell had called off talks with Arafat set for Saturday following a suicide bombing that killed six people in Jerusalem on Friday, but decided to go ahead with the meeting after the Palestinian president met U.S. demands to condemn the attack.
As Israeli forces pressed on with their offensive, the army said a soldier shot dead a Palestinian man on Saturday at a hostel next to Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, where troops have been locked in a standoff with armed men for 12 days.
At the Jenin refugee camp to the north, journalists saw the devastation left after days of the most ferocious fighting in the Israeli military campaign in the West Bank.
"The secretary will work with Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian leadership and to help make these statements a reality with effective action to bring an end to terror and violence and an early resumption of a political process," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Despite that, expectations for a breakthrough were low after a series of failed U.S. and international missions, which have been met by the bloody spiral of violence.
Earlier in the day, Powell urged restraint by Israeli forces, which swept into half a dozen more West Bank towns in defiance of U.S. pressure to end the offensive.
He also expressed concern about the "serious humanitarian situation" in areas seized by the Israeli army, which has said its intent is to root out militants behind attacks on Israelis.
Those conditions were witnessed first-hand by Reuters journalists in the Jenin camp. Its houses and passageways were smashed and riddled with bullet holes, two days after Israelis crushed the last major pocket of Palestinian resistance.
Palestinians have accused Israel of carrying out a "massacre" in Jenin in which hundreds were killed. Israel has dismissed the charge, saying it tried to avoid civilian deaths.
The army has said it killed 200 Palestinians during the offensive, about half of them in the Jenin camp.
In his statement, Arafat echoed other Palestinian officials, Arafat accused the Israeli forces of committing "massacres and slaughters" against Palestinians during the West Bank campaign.
Sharon has called a meeting with Arafat a "tragic mistake," and an Israeli diplomatic source said the government would cooperate to arrange the talks but thought it would yield nothing.
Powell has said the United States is seeking actions and not just words from the Palestinian leader in its bid to staunch more than 18 months of Middle East bloodshed in which at least 1,265 Palestinians and 452 Israelis have been killed.
Arafat has been trapped in his headquarters in Ramallah surrounded by Israeli tanks since March 29, when the Israeli army launched a sweeping offensive in the West Bank after a suicide bombing killed 28 people in an Israeli hotel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ignored a flurry of calls from Washington, Israel's chief ally, to withdraw from cities and towns occupied during the offensive and made no commitment to Powell beyond speeding up military operations.
Israeli leaders are normally careful to avoid alienating the United States, which provides the Jewish state with $3 billion in annual aid.
Powell's visit got off to a grim start with Friday's bombing just outside the Mahane Yehuda market, which plunged his peace mission into disarray.
A group linked to Arafat's Fatah movement said it carried out the attack. A Palestinian security official said it appeared to be revenge for Israel's assault on Palestinian areas.
Israel has met international condemnation for its siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born.
The army said it shot dead a man who appeared to have taken up a position to fire on the Israelis, who have been surrounding the church where at least 100 Palestinians, some of them armed, have been holed up.

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