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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      June 21, 1995, V3, #113
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Talks Progress Down to the Wire

By Kim Reid (Cairo)

Israeli and PLO negotiators have started another three days of talks in Cairo on Palestinian management of West Bank civilian affairs. PLO negotiator Jameel Tarifi says there is time to finish agreement on the more than 30 areas of authority, if Israel is serious about meeting the deadline.

Almost 50 Israelis joined Palestinian negotiators in Cairo to speed along the transfer of West Bank civilian affairs. One of the Israeli experts, on his way into the talks, says this means Israel is serious about handing over West Bank authority as part of the Declaration of Principles it signed with the PLO.

Tarifi says he hopes it means Israel is also serious about meeting a July 1 deadline for not only agreeing on West Bank civilian affairs, but also the troubling issues of Palestinian elections and Israeli troop withdrawal.

Israel's head negotiator Maj. Gen. Oren Shahor refused to speak to reporters on whether the deadline would be met. Israeli officials in Cairo predict it will take a few more months to settle West Bank civil authority, because it includes controversial areas like who has water rights in the water-scarce area.

Tarifi says comments like this mean for Israel, there are no sacred dates or deadlines -- only target dates in a peace deal already a year behind schedule. "As usual the Israel side is not committed to what they agreed on. Its always, as you know, they say they do not have holy dates and that's their position. We hope that they will be committed to the agreement."

Israel Leaders Inspect West Bank Redeployment Sites

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Senior Israeli leaders visited the West Bank on Tuesday, apparently inspecting areas that might be affected by an Israeli troop redeployment. The pace and extent of that redeployment are the key issues blocking agreement on the next phase of Palestinian autonomy by the July 1 target date. The talks appear to be facing a fresh crisis about exactly what negotiators must agree on by July 1.

,By now, nearly every top Israeli leader has said it at least once -- agreement can be reached by July 1 on a limited Israeli withdrawal from some West Bank cities, to be followed by Palestinian elections. But the Israeli leaders say if the Palestinians want agreement on a further withdrawal -- after the elections -- it will take longer.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was the latest to make the declaration Tuesday, in an interview with Israel Radio before he left for a tour of the West Bank with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Peres said the Palestinians want more than can be achieved in the next 11 days, and more than was promised when he and the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, set the July 1 target date in early March.

"I don't think they want everything, but they want quite a great deal, and the time does not permit to do it. I mean, the framework of time was done in order really to achieve the first part of it, which is necessary for elections."

Indeed at a joint news conference with Arafat on March 9, at the Israel-Gaza border, Peres said both sides wanted Palestinian elections to be held as soon as possible, and that was one motivation for speeding up the talks and setting the July 1 date. But at that news conference more than three months ago, Peres also indicated that the goal was full agreement on the redeployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank, with the agreement to be implemented in stages.

"The real change is in the graduality of the implementation. We shall have an overall agreement that will be implemented in a gradual manner."

One well-placed Israeli official says Israel has already agreed to also withdraw from the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, adjacent to Jerusalem, before the elections. But other officials deny it. Ramallah and Israeli settlements near it were part of the West Bank tour Peres and Rabin took on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Israel insists it cannot withdraw from the largest West Bank city at all in this stage. Officials say the high level of tension in the city of Hebron, and the presence of Israeli settlers in the middle of the city, make such a withdrawal impossible.

The Declaration of Principles the two sides signed at the White House in 1993 says Israel will redeploy its troops outside populated Palestinian areas before the elections, but it also mentions a further redeployment after the elections. Israeli and Palestinian leaders are continuing to argue about just which areas should be included in which part of the troop movement.

Peres says it is a complex matter and only a partial agreement can be reached by July 1. "Negotiations are going on, and 11 days is not very much from the point of view of time, but it's not little either."

Palestinian leaders say there will be serious repercussions, and perhaps violence, if those 11 days do not produce a compromise both sides can accept.

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