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U.s Seeking 11th-hour Compromise on Israeli-egyptian Border Dispute

The United States is engaged in an 11th-hour effort to achieve a compromise solution to the Israeli-Egyptian dispute over ownership of Taba, currently being deliberated by an international arbitration panel.

The issue was turned over to binding arbitration after months of hearings in Geneva. The panel has 90 days to reach a decision, but Israeli sources expect an earlier ruling.

The U.S. State Department’s legal adviser, Abraham Sofaer, held talks here Tuesday aimed at reaching a compromise before the arbitrators announce their decision. He also has spoken to the Egyptians.

Israeli sources give Sofaer little chance of success. The American official has reportedly come up with a scheme that would vest sovereignty over Taba with Egypt, but ensure occupancy rights to Israel at the luxury Sonesta Hotel and the Rafi Nelson Vacation Village, both built by Israeli entrepreneurs.

According to Israeli sources, however, the Egyptians are confident of a favorable decision by the arbitrators and reluctant to compromise at this late stage.

Taba is a half-acre strip of beach near the Israeli resort town of Eilat. It is the most important of the 14 boundary disputes between Israel and Egypt submitted to arbitration.

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