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Latest attempt to form Israeli emergency government fails
Three Palestinians killed in new clashes with Israeli soldiers
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A two-hour meeting Sunday between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, the right-wing leader of the opposition Likud party, failed to produce an emergency government designed to strengthen Barak's shaky hold on power and perhaps save the Mideast peace process.
The two men met to discuss the proposal, as three Palestinians were killed Sunday in continuing fighting on the West Bank and Gaza.
An alliance between Barak and Sharon is bitterly opposed by Palestinians because of Sharon's hard-line stance on the peace process. Including Sharon in the government could avert a call from Barak's political opponents to dissolve parliament and call for new elections for prime minister.
"So far there (have been) no decisions on our side," Israeli Cabinet Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak told CNN. "We're not going to have an emergency government ... at least not in the coming few days."
Barak had indicated earlier that he was moving closer to forming the coalition, although Sunday's talks produced no agreement. It was unclear if any future meetings between Barak and Sharon had been scheduled.
Barak holds only 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset and an alliance with Sharon's party would give him enough added support to maintain power.
However, Israel's smaller religious parties, including Shas -- which has refused to join Barak's proposed government -- said they would not work against Barak during the Israeli-Palestinian clashes. Religious party leaders referred to the stance as a safety net for Barak.
Palestinians and left-wing Israelis have warned that allowing Sharon in the government would deal a fatal blow to the peace process.
"If Mr. Sharon is in the government, we all know the peace process will be over," Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator told CNN. "Now it's up to Mr. Barak to take the real road for peace and tell the Palestinians -- who are his neighbors -- he has no interest in killing us." Erakat called on Barak to end Israel's "occupation of Palestinian territory."
Arafat: 'Our people will remain steadfast'
Speaking Sunday at the dedication of a new Palestinian hospital, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat declared he would continue to fight for Palestinian control of Jerusalem.
"Our people will remain steadfast until a boy or a girl holds the flag of Palestine over Jerusalem, the capital of our Palestinian state," Arafat said.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their traditional capital.
Continued fighting Sunday
Scattered Israeli-Palestinian clashes were reported Sunday near the West Bank towns of Ramallah and Nablus as well as the Karni border crossing between Israel and Gaza.
There, fighting broke out after Israeli tanks arrived to open a road to a nearby Jewish settlement, killing a Palestinian man.
Tanks fired live ammunition at about 200 Palestinian demonstrators, wounding at least six people, including a Palestinian policeman, according to Palestinian security sources.
In the Gaza town of Rafah, a young Palestinian boy was wounded in the fighting and declared brain dead.
In the West Bank town of Nablus, two Palestinians were shot and killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers.
Another Palestinian died Sunday in Nablus from injuries suffered during clashes on Friday. In all, at least 149 people have died in the fighting, most of them Palestinians.
Earlier Sunday, along the Israeli-Lebanese border, Israeli soldiers were fired upon from unidentified gunmen on the north side of the border, according to Israeli security sources. It was the second such incident along the border in the past week.
At the Palestinian-controlled airport in Gaza, 20 Palestinians injured in the fighting flew to Baghdad, Iraq, for medical treatment.
Arafat seeks alliances
Like Barak, Arafat also has sought an alliance with a more extreme group. Palestinian officials confirmed that Arafat has forged a political truce with Hamas, a militant Islamic opposition group.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, a Palestinian cabinet minister, said the alliance "was aimed to contain all the Palestinian factors and to guarantee harmony between their behavior and the behavior of the Palestinian Authority."
"Indirectly this will help prevent any operation by these people to sabotage and undermine our plans and our strategic interests," he said.
Arafat's Fatah organization Sunday passed out leaflets calling for an intensification of the so-called Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.
Barak's political challenge
Israel has suspended talks with the Palestinians and has said it will not renew them until the violence ends.
Both Israel and the Palestinians blame each other for the continued fighting, which began September 28 after Sharon visited a site in east Jerusalem that is holy to both Muslims and Jews. Palestinians said Sharon had "defiled" the site, while Sharon said Palestinians were using his visit there as an excuse to fight with Israeli soldiers.
Sharon has stated that he is against giving Palestinians any form of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem.
In addition, he also opposes the removal of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon supports demilitarization of those areas, but opposes the return to Palestinian territories of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees living in camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
Israelis, Palestinians mark one month of clashes
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