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Israel to Release Arab Prisoners As Shamir Meets in Washington

Israel will release several hundred Palestinian prisoners on Wednesday, just hours before Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s meeting with Secretary of State James Baker in Washington.

This was confirmed here Tuesday night by official sources after speculative reports began appearing in the media.

The sources said the releases would nominally be linked to the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, which begins at the end of this week.

But they are likely to be interpreted this time as an important Israeli gesture to ease conditions in the territories on the eve of Shamir’s talks with the Bush administration.

The sources said they expect up to 300 people to be released, the number embracing both administrative detainees and convicted prisoners.