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Arab world pulls Arafat two ways

President Clinton tries to move both parties 'beyond blame' at the Mideast summit, which began yesterday.

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As Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sat with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for an emergency summit here yesterday, he was under intense pressure not just from President Clinton, who called the meeting in a last-ditch effort to defuse the Mideast crisis.

He was also feeling the heat from the whole Arab and Muslim world, where governments and popular sentiment are often tugging him in very different directions.

Arab leaders want an end to the violence that has pitted Palestinians against Israeli troops in the West Bank and Gaza for the past two weeks, claiming more than 100 lives - mostly Palestinian. Not since the Gulf War 10 years ago have their peoples' passions been stirred more dangerously.

But from Morocco to Kuwait, crowds of demonstrators, often violent, have been shouting their support for the Palestinians' latest uprising, and urging them on.

The summit started in this desert resort with limited goals - to secure a cease-fire. But with Mr. Clinton joined by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Jordanian King Abdullah, Washington clearly hoped such heavy diplomatic firepower would suffice to persuade the Israelis and Palestinians to resume their peace negotiations once the situation is calmer.

"We've got to move beyond blame," Clinton said as the summit opened. "We've got to focus on what we do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day."

Time for truce

A truce was urgent, as the violence in the Mideast continued yesterday and sent shockwaves worldwide: Stock markets have fallen; the price of oil has hit its highest levels for a decade; a US warship has been attacked, killing 17 sailors. In Europe and the US, synagogues have been bombed and burned. And an Israeli businessman - whom the Hizbullah says was an Israeli spy trying to penetrate its group - has been kidnapped by the Syrian- and Iranian-backed group based in Lebanon.


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