As US Envoy Visits, Mideast Struggles ; Two Attacks Sunday Complicate Anthony Zinni's Delicate Mideast Mission

By Cameron W. Barr writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

As US Envoy Visits, Mideast Struggles ; Two Attacks Sunday Complicate Anthony Zinni's Delicate Mideast Mission


Cameron W. Barr writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


US mediator Anthony Zinni has arrived in the Middle East with a new approach, but it is not producing immediate results.

As violence flared yet again yesterday, a Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said the two sides were "stuck" over how the Israelis should withdraw their forces from Palestinian areas and how the two sides can complement cease-fire talks with a discussion about an overall settlement of their differences.

In Gaza - where a massive crowd yesterday buried a woman, her three children, and a nephew killed on Friday in an explosion each side attributes to the other - people were not optimistic about Mr. Zinni's chances.

"If there's no political solution there will be no security, and that is the problem with Zinni," said Col. Abu Ibrahim Al Awawdeh of the Palestinian Preventive Security service, a force created in part to prevent attacks against Israelis.

Israelis, too, were doubtful, with senior officials registering dismay at two attacks yesterday, a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem suburb and a shooting rampage in the town of Kfar Saba north of Tel Aviv.

"Israel has offered a cease-fire, pulled back most of its forces in good faith, and this seems to be the answer Israel is receiving," Dore Gold, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told The Associated Press.

After a week of large-scale invasions of Palestinian areas in the West Bank, the largest of such operations since the 1967 Arab- Israeli War, Israeli forces have indeed withdrawn considerably from the positions they held last week.

But yesterday Israeli troops advanced farther into Bethlehem, a town under full Palestinian control, and they remain in the next- door town of Beit Jala, which is also nominally under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Negotiating the withdrawal of these troops, as well as others in Palestinian areas, is complicating Zinni's mission. Echoing a Palestinian demand for a full pullback before the commencement of cease-fire talks, US officials have demanded that Mr. Sharon comply.

But the Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Israelis were refusing to pull back completely without guarantees from the Palestinian Authority that it would step in to those areas to protect Israel's security. Working out such arrangements amounts to a resumption of security talks, something the Palestinians refuse to do unless there is a complete withdrawal without concomitant political discussions. …

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