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Israeli, Palestinian Officials Meet

September 23, 2002

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ For the first time in the five-day siege of Yasser Arafat’s office, Israeli and Palestinian officials met Monday to try to end the standoff. Israel eased Arafat’s isolation by allowing a Palestinian Cabinet minister to brief him on the negotiations.

Israel says it will not withdraw until dozens of Palestinian security officials holed up inside surrender. Israel says some of the men are suspected of involvement in terror attacks. Arafat has said he will not hand over any member of his entourage.

The meeting between Israeli military officials and Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat came a day after Israel halted the demolition of Arafat’s headquarters, reportedly amid intense U.S. pressure. The meeting took place at the Beit El military base north of Ramallah, Palestinian officials said.

Erekat later briefed Arafat in the one building that remains standing in the compound, a wing of the Palestinian leader’s office. It was the first time a visitor has been allowed to see Arafat since the siege was launched Thursday. Arafat is confined to four rooms in the building, along with about 200 aides and security officials.

Israel launched its seige of the city-block-sized command compound after a suicide bombing Thursday that killed six people and the attacker. The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the blast on a Tel Aviv bus.

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