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Burg Briefs Ministers on Agenda Talks in Cairo

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The Israeli ministerial team that will negotiate with Egypt over autonomy for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip was briefed today by its chairman, Interior Minister Yosef Burg, who just returned from talks with Egyptian leaders in Cairo over the negotiating agenda. The meeting held in the office of Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, was attended by five of the six ministers. Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, who himself returned from Cairo yesterday, was absent.

Burg told his colleagues of his talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Butros Ghali and Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil separately today, shortly before he departed for Israel. Each meeting lasted 90 minutes. While in Cairo, Burg also met with James Leonard, deputy to Ambassador Robert Strauss who will head the American delegation at the autonomy talks.

Burg reported that the Egyptians accepted his proposals to hold negotiating sessions once every two weeks, each session to last a day or two as required. He produced a calendar of the meetings for the next two months. He said the Egyptians also agreed that the full negotiating teams of both sides will attend the initial sessions, after which special subcommittees would be established to discuss specific details of the autonomy plan.

Burg flew to Cairo Tuesday for the purpose of arranging an agenda for the first meeting to be held in Alexandria next Monday. It was learned that while some circles in Israel and the U.S. regarded the National Religious Party leader as no more than a “figurehead” bereft of real negotiating authority, the Egyptians, for their part view him as Israel’s top negotiator and intend to deal with him as such, They will not, highly placed sources in Cairo said, seek to sidestep Burg and negotiate with the two other ranking members of the Israeli team, Weizmann and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan.

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