Sharon suggests new flexibility to reach truce

Saturday, March 9, 2002

JERUSALEM -- Under building U.S. pressure and on the heels of the Palestinian arrest of a key assassination suspect, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested Friday new flexibility in reaching a truce.

Sharon suggested on Israel TV's Channel Two he was willing to drop his insistence on a week free of Palestinian attacks ahead of any truce deal. He spoke after a conversation earlier in the day with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"Negotiations to stop the shooting will be under fire," Sharon said. "These are the negotiations to achieve a cease-fire."

Palestinian intelligence officials, meanwhile, said they had arrested Majdi Rimawi, the fifth and final suspect that Israel had demanded be arrested in the October assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi.

Israel had said Yasser Arafat must arrest all suspects before it would lift its travel ban on the Palestinian leader, who has been confined to the West Bank town of Ramallah since December. Arafat is pushing hard to be able to attend the Arab Summit in Beirut later this month.

The intricate moves taking place in the Mideast are being played out against the backdrop of a peace proposal floated last month by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Broadly put, the Saudi leader said the Arab world would make peace with Israel if it agreed to withdraw from lands captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

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