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>JN Sept. 7, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 154

Clinton Meets Separately with Barak & Arafat

By David Gollust (VOA-United Nations) & IsraelWire

President Clinton has held separate meetings at a New York hotel with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in an effort to conclude a final status Middle East peace accord before the parties' Sept. 13 deadline.

The urgency of the talks was underscored by Clinton, who in his speech to the UN Millennium summit said the time is now for the parties to take risks for peace and that there is not a moment to lose.

The talks are stalled over the political future of Jerusalem. In his UN address, Barak called the city Israel's eternal capital but said his government is ready for a compromise arrangement that reflects Christian, Muslim - and Palestinian -- bonds to the city.

"We envision a peace that will preserve the vital interests and the dignity of all sides but no side can achieve 100 per cent of its dreams, if we are to succeed. My government has shown in negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, as well as in our pullout from Lebanon, that it can make painful decisions for the sake peace."

The Israeli leader warned against unilateral actions that he said could "obliterate" prospects for peace - an apparent reference to the Palestinian threats to declare statehood next Wednesday, whether or not it is part of a peace accord with Israel.

Arafat acknowledged in his UN message that some Arab and other governments are urging the Palestinians to postpone the statehood move, and that a decision on the issue will be made by the Palestinian Central Council, which is to convene Saturday in Gaza.

Heard through an interpreter, Arafat reiterated that the Palestinians want Jerusalem to be an open city but with Palestinian control of mostly-Arab East Jerusalem.

"We have agreed to share the city, and eliminate barriers and borders therein - in contrast to attempts at monopolizing it - as a response to exclusivity and rejection of our rights. At the same time we remain committed to our national rights over East Jerusalem, capital of our state and shelter of our sacred sites, as well as our rights on the Christian and Islamic holy sites."

Clinton urged world leaders - whatever their past attitude toward the Mideast parties - to help them toward an agreement ending more than 50 years of conflict.

Administration officials said that while no three-way Clinton-Arafat-Barak meeting was expected, U.S. diplomats would shuttle between the Israeli and Palestinian teams at the Waldorf Hotel in central New York in an attempt to narrow the differences.

Setting the stage for a deal in New York City, U.S. officials indicated that both Israel and the PLO Authority are closer to a deal than they were at Camp David II, with both parties now ready to make compromises.


Hamas Leader Linked to Bin Laden Terrorists

By IsraelWire

Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheik Ahmad Yassin has been linked to master terrorist Osama bin Laden despite denying any contact with the bin Laden organization. Recent reports linking Hamas to bin Laden were denied by Yassin in the media.

Following the recent clearing for publication the news of the arrest of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists by the General Security Service (GSS/Shin Bet) over past months, it was learned that the link between the terror organizations existed. Israeli security establishment officials reported they learned of a conspiracy to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Israeli targets in conjunction with the bin Laden organization.

According to the IDF indictment against three terrorists in custody, Yassin did in the past make a $10,000 contribution to further efforts to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets by bin Laden affiliates. Yassin also spoke of working to recruit terrorists from PLO Authority autonomous areas to enlist them in bin Laden's terrorist army.


Israel: No New Excavations Under Western Wall

By IsraelWire

The PLO Authority-appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheik Arama Tsabari, Wednesday, issued a threat regarding reported archeological work by Israel on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Tsabari warned that the excavations conducted by Israel are compromising the integrity of the mosques on the Temple Mount and the slightest damage to any of the Islamic structures would result in an outbreak of violence and an "explosion" in the area.

Israel Antiquities Authority officials issued a statement denying the presence of any new tunnel or ongoing excavations in the areas described by the media.

There is a Second Temple-era tunnel, the existence of which has been well-known for many years. It served as part of a Herodian street's rainwater drainage network and both parallel the Western Wall and runs beyond the confines of the Temple Mount. The tunnel has been written about in scientific publications, archaeological reports and tourist guides (including the guide for the Jerusalem Archaeological Park).




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