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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Powell, Arafat Talk Brings No Cease-Fire

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called his Sunday meeting with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat "useful and constructive" but indicated no progress toward a cease-fire agreement from the Palestinian leader who remains under Israeli confinement in his rocket-scarred headquarters.

A top Arafat aide said the Palestinians "absolutely" pledged to curb violence against Israelis, but only after the Israeli military ends the 16-day-old incursion into Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank.

"When the Israelis complete a full withdrawal we will carry out our obligations," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Powell, in a terse statement after three hours of talks, said he and Arafat "exchanged a variety of ideas" to be followed up when the two sides meet again Monday. Powell and Arafat may meet a third time Tuesday.

Powell said he talked with the Palestinian leader about "steps on how we can move forward," but the secretary of state offered no details and he did not indicate any progress was made on attempts to gain a cease-fire.

In the meeting, Powell made a 45-minute presentation to Arafat with the clear message that "the bombings have to stop, that they are a major barrier to moving forward," on security and political issues, including Palestinian statehood, a senior U.S. official said.

Arafat, for his part, expressed serious concerns about the suffering of the Palestinian people, especially in Jenin, the site of fierce fighting, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Powell was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday night in Tel Aviv as the secretary of state engages in shuttle diplomacy in an attempt to halt 18 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

In the delayed talks with Arafat, Powell was pressing him to take "effective action" to end Palestinian attacks against Israel.

Powell was to push Sharon further on the U.S. call for a swift Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank, for restraint by Israeli forces who are looking for militants and terrorists and for "unimpeded access to humanitarian organizations" for the Palestinian people.

Powell and Arafat met for about three hours in a dining room, seated at a long table with Palestinian and American aides at their side.

Arafat, 72, appeared in good physical health, although he's been under pressure that is "unreal for an old man like him," said Zeid Abu Shawish, a Palestinian doctor caring for the wounded in the compound.

The heavily guarded visit is bound to boost Arafat's standing as the leader of the Palestinian people and the one Israel must deal with to seek a peace accord. Powell decided to meet with Arafat after the Palestinian leader denounced terrorism on Saturday in a statement the White House had demanded.

The talks had been delayed 24 hours because Arafat initially ignored U.S. calls to condemn the Friday attack of a suicide bomber near a Jerusalem marketplace, which killed six and injured scores.

"We are condemning strongly all the attacks which are targeting civilians from both sides and especially the attack that took place against Israeli citizens yesterday in Jerusalem," Arafat said Saturday.