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Mideast talks produce no truce yet

U.S.-led truce talks ended without an agreement late Sunday but both Israelis and Palestinians said they would meet again today, focusing on new American proposals aimed at bridging their differences and halting 18 months of bloodshed.

Violence raged despite the cease-fire efforts. Israeli commandos backed by helicopters tracked and killed four militants who slipped across the normally quiet border from Jordan, and seven people were killed in other violence.

U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni convened Israeli and Palestinian security commanders in an undisclosed location to try to settle the final differences over implementing a truce plan negotiated last year by CIA director George Tenet.

Another plan, a proposal from Saudi Arabia, was released Sunday by the Palestinians, who had received a draft. Instead of peaceful relations, it calls only for an end to the conflict. In exchange, Israel would withdraw from all the territories it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The proposal is to be discussed at an Arab League summit this week in Beirut, Lebanon.

A Saudi newspaper quoted Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah as saying he believes Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has rejected the proposal. "I found out that everyone wants this proposal except for one person, and that's Sharon," the daily al-Watan quoted Abdullah as saying Saturday.

Sharon has neither accepted nor rejected the proposal publicly, saying Israel has not seen details. However, he has said a return to the pre-1967 war borders _ meaning a pullout from all the West Bank, Gaza Strip, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights _ would endanger Israel's security.

Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that he is unlikely to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat before the Arab League summit, saying Arafat has not taken enough steps to limit violence against Israelis. However, Cheney said Israel should permit Arafat to attend.

Cheney said Arafat has failed to meet a string of conditions, but he repeated his offer of a face-to-face encounter if the Palestinian leader's behavior changes. His decision shifts the pressure to Sharon, who must decide whether to permit Arafat to join Arab leaders in the Lebanese capital.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post quoted unnamed Israeli military planners as saying they are preparing for a major assault on Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps if truce talks fail. The officials expressed pessimism that the talks would lead to a durable end to violence and terrorist attacks against Israelis.

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