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Peace Efforts in Tatters

U N Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a new approach in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, saying Israeli security measures alone are not enough.

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Sharon proposes new "security measures" in the West Bank

A suspected Palestinian suicide bomber was shot dead in a West bank supermarket on Friday.

The suicide attempt follows a withdrawal by Israeli forces from positions in the Gaza Strip, a move regarded as a possible sign of easing tensions after a week of violence.

Since Monday, fighting has cost the lives of 40 Palestinians and 10 Israelis – leaving international peace efforts in tatters.

The foiled suicide bombing attempt followed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's promise to create buffer zones to insulate Israelis from Palestinian attacks.

In a long-awaited televised address to the nation, Sharon called for the complete disarmament of the Palestinian territories. Sharon, under pressure after the recent outbreak of violence, suggested a "security separation" of Israel from Palestinian territories.

But his proposals caused outrage among Palestinian officials who called Sharon’s plans an attempt to "create jails for the Palestinian people within their cities, towns and villages".

A key Palestinian negotiator in talks between the two sides, Saeb Erekat, said Mr Sharon was determined to pursue war.

A trail of destruction

The series of Israeli raids continued on Thursday, leaving a trail of destruction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In Gaza City, Israeli army tanks blew up the Voice of Palestine radio and television headquarters, rendering them inoperable.

As Mr Sharon spoke Israeli helicopter gunships resumed fire at Palestinian targets, hitting security buildings in Gaza City and Rafah further south.

In his speech, Sharon ignored a conciliatory gesture from Arafat earlier on Thursday in which the Palestinian leader had reiterated his December 16 ceasefire call to Palestinians.

"I repeat again our complete commitment to what I had declared last December 16, for ceasing fire, to protect the 'peace of the brave' which we had started with my partner Yitzhak Rabin," Arafat said.

Sharon addressed the nation amid growing criticism across the political spectrum for failing to subdue the Palestinian uprising .

A latest poll disclosed Sharon’s credibility in the eyes of Israelis had dropped to 54 per cent in February from 70 per cent in December.

On the edge of an abyss

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for a new approach in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East on Thursday, saying Israeli security measures alone were not enough.

Annan told a special session of the UN Security Council on Thursday that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was nearing the edge of an abyss and risked sliding into full-fledged war.

The United Nations Security Council met in New York on Thursday to discuss Arab demands that the body take a stand on the escalating Middle East crisis.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said that security measures could not be implemented without taking into account the politics of the region, warning that the conflict was turning into a fully-fledged war.

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