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Arafat Ready to Work on Cease-Fire

March 28, 2002

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Thursday that he is ready to work for ``an immediate cease-fire″ with Israel.

``We are ready,″ Arafat told a news conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah. ``I am assuring our readiness to work on a cease-fire, an immediate cease-fire.″

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, downplayed Arafat’s comments, which were not carried live on the official Palestinian television station.

``I will see the glimmer of hope ... when Arafat starts to take action,″ Gissin told CNN. ``He has to take real action, declarations won’t do.″

Arafat said he told U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni, whose truce efforts are continuing despite Wednesday’s suicide bombing that killed 20 people in Israel, that he was ready for a cease-fire ``without any conditions.″

But he did not say whether the Palestinians now accept Zinni’s specific detailed timetable, which they effectively rejected two days ago.

Arafat alluded to reports that Israel is planning a massive military retaliation to the latest suicide bombing.

``Unfortunately, there are some aggressive preparations by the Israelis for a wide military operation against our civilians, our cities and our refugee camps,″ he said.

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