Envoy says he's determined to end fighting in Mideast

Saturday, December 1, 2001

JERUSALEM -- The U.S. special Mideast envoy said Friday his peace mission will not be spoiled by increasing violence and threats by militants, and he will stay "as long as it takes" to secure a truce.

The mediator, retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, made the pledge a day after an Islamic militant blew himself up on a bus in Israel, killing himself and three passengers.

In all, seven Israelis have died in Palestinian attacks since Zinni's arrival Monday. Seven Palestinians also have been killed, including four assailants and three shot by Israeli troops in other incidents.

After meeting with Israeli President Moshe Katsav on Friday, Zinni said he would stick with his mission of reviving a truce deal and restarting peace talks.

"I want to say that I, in the most strongest sense, condemn this violence," Zinni said, referring to Thursday's bus bombing. "The groups that do this are clearly trying to make my mission fail. I am determined not to let that happen.

"I'm not committed to work for words. I'm committed to work for actions on the ground. And I will be here as long as it takes to make that happen."

The militant Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the bus blast near the Israeli town of Hadera. It identified the suicide bomber as 32-year-old Samer Abu Suleiman from the West Bank town of Jenin.

In the West Bank town of Nablus, the Islamic militant group Hamas staged a rally Friday in memory of Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, the leader of its military wing who was killed in a targeted Israeli missile attack last week.

Yasser Mansour, a Hamas leader, told a crowd of about 3,000 that Hamas would carry out more attacks.

Israeli radio said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is visiting the United States, has ordered military strikes in response to the bus bombing. The reports quoted aides traveling with Sharon as saying he had informed Zinni of the order.

The Palestinian leadership accused Israel of escalating the conflict to sabotage the Zinni mission.

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