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TALKS BETWEEN ASSAD, ARAFAT SPARK HOPES FOR PEACE

Syrian President Hafez Assad's meeting with arch-rival PLO leader Yasser Arafat has fueled optimism that the assembled Arab leaders might agree to a resolution on the Middle East peace process.

Assad's talks with Arafat Wednesday arethe latest reconciliatory move during the scheduled two-day conference, which opened Tuesday with an Egyptian leader attending for the first time in 10 years.The state-run Syrian news agency SANA and delegation sources said the Assad-Arafat meeting Wednesday was held in the presence of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.

The sources said summit host King Hassan II of Morocco had been working toward an Assad-Arafat meeting for some time. Hassan, tireless campaigner for an end to divisions plaguing the Arab world, called the extraordinary summit to discuss the Pal-estinian question and Lebanon's civil war.

Tuesday, Gadhafi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held a rare meeting before joining a full session of the 22-member Arab League behind closed doors. Algerian President Chadli Bendjedid brought the former enemies together for two hours at his villa in the grounds of the Royal Palace.

It was the first time the Libyan strongman has met with the Egyptian president since Mubarak succeeded Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated in October 1981 after signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

"I think that the relations (between Cairo and Tripoli) will be solid, God willing," Chadli said.

Middle East experts said the Mubarak-Gadhafi and Assad-Arafat meetings indicate a spirit of reconciliation at the gathering where there was speculation the summit would produce a final declaration expected to focus on the Palestinian question.