Hussein Offers his Condolences

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JERUSALEM: Making a visit into Jerusalem, King Hussein personally offered his condolences to the families of the seven schoolgirls killed by a Jordanian soldier last Thursday. Hussein's diplomacy may prove to be more effective at healing feelings than at changing Israeli policy. After a two-hour private meeting with the Jordanian leader, Benjamin Netanyahu announced his government's determination to proceed with construction of a 6,500-unit housing settlement in east Jerusalem. The initial announcement of the settlement plans sparked an angry response from Hussein last week and prompted Yasser Arafat to cut off all communication with Netanyahu. Arafat had also warned of renewed Palestinian violence if Israel proceeds with construction on the Jewish settlement. That comment in turn brought threats of exile from Israeli Justice Minister Tsahi Hanegbi. But Hussein's diplomacy succeeded in cooling the dispute. Hussein and Netanyahu jointly phoned Arafat on Sunday, and Netanyahu adviser David Bar-Illan said the Prime Minister and Arafat could meet this week. Sunday ended on a hopeful note in Palestinian-Israeli relations, with a temporary settlement that will allow construction to continue on the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Airport. Hussein and Netanyahu both suggested that all parties were determined not to allow disagreement over the settlements to completely derail peace talks. But Hussein admonished reporters: "Do not expect that everything will be laid out in front of you."