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                     Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
                      Sept. 22, 1995, V3, #175
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Iranian May be Charged with Air Piracy

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

An Israeli court has ordered the confessed hijacker of an Iranian airliner held for 15 days, while the authorities prepare charges against him and consider his request for political asylum.

The 29-year-old flight attendant was brought before a judge in Eilat Thursday, less than 12-hours after the plane had flown back to Iran. The judge said the prisoner, Reza Jabari, had confessed to the hijacking and told investigators he wanted to flee Iran.

Israeli authorities are planning to charge him with air piracy, hijacking, weapons possession, and infiltration. The judge said Israel is also seriously considering his request for political asylum.

The prisoner told the court he never wanted to hurt anyone. All 176 of the plane's other passengers and crew members returned to Iran unharmed late wednesday, after spending about 30-hours at a remote air base in southern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he had allowed the hijacked plane to land around midday on Tuesday after the pilot said he might crash for lack of fuel. The plane's return was delayed until late Wednesday by political considerations and a technical problem.

Egyptian POW Burial Sites Discovered in Sinai

By David Gollust (VOA-Cairo)

Egyptian officials say they will investigate the reported discovery in the Sinai of two burial sites of Egyptian prisoners killed by Israeli troops in the 1967 Six Day War. The POW issue is becoming a serious irritant in Egyptian-Israeli relations.

Egyptian officials say they intend to examine the two sites in the Sinai to try to determine if they are -- as reported -- mass graves of Egyptian prisoners killed by Israeli troops in 1967.

The Egyptian government newspaper Al-Ahram said Wednesday its reporters found human bones at two locations near El-Arish in the Sinai after having been guided there by alleged eyewitnesses to Israeli prisoner killings.

More than 80 Egyptians are said to have been killed in the two incidents, although the Al-Ahram report said only bone fragments and no complete skeletons had been found at the two sites. It quoted an Egyptian doctor as concluding that the bones were human and more than 20 years old -- and suggesting that other remains could have weathered away in the shallow graves.

The POW issue emerged as a major problem in Israel-Egyptian relations in August, when a retired Israeli general said he had killed 49 Egyptian prisoners during the 1956 Sinai campaign because he didn't have enough men to guard them.

Other Israeli veterans have since come forward with accounts of prisoner killings during the Six Day War in 1967 -- prompting Egyptian demands for an investigation by Israel and trial of those responsible.

Israel's attorney general has called the murder of prisoners of war unlawful and intolerable but says Israeli law does not allow murder charges to be filed more than 20 years after the alleged crime was committed.

The Israeli stance has come under attack in the Egyptian press, with commentators accusing Israel of hypocrisy for continuing to seek action against those responsible for World War 2 atrocities against Jews while citing a statute of limitations in the POW cases.

Israel is indignant over the comparison of Nazi genocide to the prisoner issue, and has reacted bitterly to an Egyptian magazine's allegation that the Egyptian-born Israeli ambassador in Cairo, David Sultan, had himself killed prisoners in 1956. Sultan says he was a teenage army clerk during the Sinai campaign and had no combat role.

Autonomy Deadline Passes

By David Gollust (VOA-Cairo)

The Israeli/PLO talks in Egypt on a second phase of Palestinian autonomy remain stalled over future Israeli troop deployments in the West Bank. Negotiators now say an agreement might not be reached until October.

The delegations led by PLO leader Yasir Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres have held some 50 hours of talks since Sunday. But negotiations are still hung up over the details of what is to be an Israeli troop withdrawal from the major Arab towns in the West Bank, including violence-plagued Hebron.

A spokesman for Arafat said that while the voluminous accord providing for the next stage of autonomy is 90 percent complete, finishing the deal will be difficult and the process might drag into October.

The two sides missed their goal of signing the agreement in Washington Thursday and the Arafat spokesman said a fall-back target date of Sept. 28 might not be attainable either.

In the absence of an early accord, the talks at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba will have to be suspended for Jewish New Year's observances beginning Sunday. But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told Israel Army Radio a signing delay of one or two weeks will not cause any great harm, and that the peace process is still on track.

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