JERUSALEM -- CIA chief George Tenet brought together Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs Friday, the highest-level mediation yet by the Bush administration, in a joint effort to stabilize a cease-fire and prepare the way for resuming peace negotiations.
The three-way security meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah came a day after Tenet met separately with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and security commanders.
Tenet's mediation sparked angry rallies by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, during which the CIA chief was burned in effigy. Hamas accused Tenet of trying to pit Palestinians against each other amid Israeli demands for a crackdown on militants, and it vowed the intefadeh, or uprising, would not stop.
The Bush administration has been reluctant to take a direct role in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. But after both sides called cease-fires, Tenet -- who holds a Cabinet-level post -- was dispatched to try to seal the fragile truce. Political talks so far had been mediated by U.S. envoy William Burns, an assistant secretary of state, while lower-level CIA officials have joined earlier security talks.
The Palestinian security chiefs for the West Bank and Gaza, Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan, respectively, participated in Friday's meeting, while the Israeli delegation was headed by internal security chief Avi Dichter.
Burns, meanwhile, held talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after meeting earlier Friday with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
The European Union has also taken a direct role: placing security experts at several friction points to help keep the cease-fire, EU and Palestinian officials said.
Israel has rejected the presence of any international observers, and EU officials were careful to say the experts -- invited by the Palestinians -- were not observers.
Twenty-four Europeans are working to guarantee the cease-fire, particularly in the West Bank town of Beit Jalla and the Gaza Strip areas of Nitzarim settlement and Rafah, a Palestinian political official -- who called them observers -- said on condition of anonymity. The EU teams have met regularly with Palestinian security and reviewed patrols on the ground, where Palestinian police have been trying to keep gunmen from nearing flashpoints, Palestinian officials said.
Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire on May 22. Arafat called for an end to violence June 1, after a suicide bomber killed 20 Israelis in an attack on a Tel Aviv beachfront disco.
Violence continued Friday at a relatively low ebb.
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