Egypt Suspends Talks with Israel on Taba Dispute; Mubarak Calls Israel’s Raid on PLO Hq a ‘crime’

The Israeli-Egyptian talks on their Taba border dispute, which resumed in Cairo last week after a long hiatus, were abruptly suspended by Egypt today because of Israel’s air raid on Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in Tunisia.

President Hosni Mubarak called off the talks, in which the U.S. had been participating, in an angry letter to Washington. He gave as his reason what he called the “crime” of the Israeli attack. But Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressed hope today that the Taba talks will resume soon despite Egypt’s action.

“It is in the interests of both of our countries to reach a settlement of this problem,” Rabin said at the press conference in Tel Aviv where he and the Air Force commander gave details of the air raid. He said it was his “hope and desire” that the Air Force action not harm the peace process, either with Egypt or on the Eastern front, presumably a reference to Jordan.

He defended the air raid on PLO headquarters, 1,500 miles from Israel, on grounds that Israel could not allow itself to be hit time and again by terrorists without responding “in the suitable form and with freedom of choice” respecting the target. He pointed out that the existence and the increase of terrorism against Israel was itself gravely prejudicial to the peace process.

The Taba talks were postponed for several days, at Egypt’s request, before Mubarak suspended them. Israeli officials explained earlier that the new round, to have begun today, would open later this week because Egypt wanted its Foreign Minister, Ismet Abdel Meguid, to head its delegation. Meguid, presently attending the 40th session of the UN General Assembly in New York, is due back in Cairo in a few days.

Israeli, Egyptian and American officials met in Cairo last Thursday to agree on an agenda for the resumed talks which were expected to be held intermittently over the next several weeks. Premier Shimon Peres opened the way by instructing the Israeli negotiators to “make all preparations for a policy decision” by the Inner Cabinet on whether to resolve the border dispute through compromise or by conciliation or arbitration.

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