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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Oct. 30, 1995, V3, #196
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Christopher Visiting Assad

By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Amman)

Secretary of State Warren Christopher flies from Amman to Damascus today for his first visit with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad since mid-June. Christopher is dampening hopes of a breakthrough in the stalled Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

When Christopher left Damascus in June, he felt he had started a process of military talks between Israel and Syria that would last for months. Instead, the process stalled in late June after a meeting of their military chiefs of staff.

This morning, four months later, Christopher flies back to Damascus with little prospect of resuming direct negotiations between Israel and Syria. Speaking to reporters last night in Amman, the Secretary ruled out breakthroughs in Syria.

"I think the parties are still serious about peace and as one of the co-sponsors of the Madrid process, I'm going to go there to see if we can't find some way to break out of the stalemate and to resume the peace process because the United States has long felt, President Clinton feels, that a comprehensive peace is very important for this region."

One example of that is here in Amman at the economic summit meeting. Syria and Lebanon continue to boycott the economic dimension of peace. The Arab Gulf states continue to refrain from involvement with the Middle East Development Bank until Syria and Lebanon are brought into the peace process.

Christopher appealed to delegates to the conference to drop their remaining boycott of Israel. "The boycott against Israel maintains high walls at a time when negotiations are bringing them down. It impedes regional economic growth. The boycott serves no one and should be brought to a final conclusion."

The problem in the Israeli-Syrian talks remains suspicion on both sides. The Israelis fear the Syrians do not want a full peace treaty because they insist on a complete Israeli troop withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The Syrians fear Israel wants to maintain a presence on the Heights when the Israelis call for establishment of an early warning station on the ground there. The US is trying to break the deadlock in both procedure and substance.

Most of all, Christopher will be passing on Israel's assurance that peace is still possible in spite of elections scheduled in Israel for next year. The question is whether Assad feels under any time pressure to resume direct negotiations with Israel.

Islamic Jihad Vows Worldwide Revenge

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Palestinian Autonomy Authority has urged restraint, but the militant Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, has vowed to take revenge on Israel for the killing last Thursday of its leader, Fathi Shqaqi. Israel has denied any involvement in the shooting, and placed its security forces on alert.

The Secretary General of the Palestinian Autonomy Authority, Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, urged Islamic Jihad not to carry out attacks against Israel, so as not to slow down the expansion of autonomy in the West Bank, which has just begun. A Palestinian security official said the authority is prepared to take tough action to prevent or respond to any attack on Israelis.

Those statements followed a pledge by Islamic Jihad to make Israeli institutions worldwide the targets for its revenge.

The Islamic Jihad founder and leader, Fathi Shqaqi, was gunned down in Malta on Thursday, but his identity was not confirmed until Saturday night. The 43-year-old militant was on his way from Libya to his base in Syria.

At a rally in Gaza on Sunday, 1,000 demonstrators chanted "Down with the olive branch, take up arms." In a leaflet, Islamic Jihad announced that its new leader would be Ramadan Abdullah, whose brother Omar was recently sentenced to 25 years in jail by the Palestinian Authority for membership in Islamic Jihad.

The group opposes the Israeli/Palestinian peace deal and has carried out a series of attacks to try to block it.

Israeli officials deny any involvement in the Shqaqi killing, but Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he is not sorry it happened. Foreign Minister Shimon peres said having one less murderer in the world should not affect the peace process.

But similar incidents in the past have done just that. Islamic Jihad blamed Israel for the killing of another of its leaders, Hani Abed, in Gaza a year ago. Israel denied it, but the incident triggered a series of revenge attacks including a bus bombing near Tel Aviv in January, which killed more than 20 people, and a bombing in the Gaza Strip in April which killed eight.

Israeli security forces were on heightened alert Sunday to try to prevent Islamic Jihad from striking again.

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