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EU to Make New Efforts for Peace in Middle East
MON, FEB 25, 2002    
European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Javier Solana was due to start a new round of efforts for "just and lasting peace" in the Middle East from Sunday to Thursday amid escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

According to the agenda, Solana flew to Tel Aviv on Sunday night, then will spend three days talking to Israeli and Palestinian leaders, military and intelligence chiefs as well as peace activists before he continues to visit Egypt and Jordan in abid to help the Palestinians and Israel out of a spiral of bloodshed that has claimed some 40 lives over the past week.

"Don't expect miracles," the former Spanish foreign minister told reporters on Friday. "The situation is the worst since I began dealing with the Middle East at the (1991) Madrid peace conference."

But he cited some rays of hope in a resumption of talks between Israeli and Palestinian security officials, peace proposals mooted by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Korei (Abu Ala) and a rare exchange of goodwill messages between U.S. President George W. Bush and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

The EU has alternated between putting pressure on Arafat to crack down on Palestinian "terror networks" and criticizing Israel for its reprisal raids on Palestinian infrastructure built with EU funds.

EU foreign ministers failed to agree on an initiative in support of the Peres-Abu Ala proposal this week because Britain, Germany and the Netherlands -- allegedly under pressure from the United States -- blocked a deal, diplomats said.

In another development, an EU official expressed disappointment on Sunday over Israel's decision to keep Arafat confined to the West Bank city of Ramallah. The official, who asked not to be named, said the EU stood behind Arafat and regarded him as the legitimate interlocutor for peace.

"We are expressing disappointment ...the decision expected was a full relaxation of the confinement," the official said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said earlier on Sunday Israel would ease its two-month-old tank blockade of Arafat's headquarters compound in Ramallah and allow him to move freely around the city.

Editor:Zhong Source:Xinhua
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