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Israel Denies It is Under Deadline to Respond to U.s Peace Proposals

Israel denied Tuesday that it had promised to deliver a positive response to U.S. proposals for a regional peace conference while the summit meeting was under way in Moscow between Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Officials here seemed irritated by persistent reports from Moscow that the United States and Soviet Union expected Israel’s reply by Tuesday so they could announce at the summit that invitations were being sent out to the peace conference they would co-host.

Israel suspects the reports were initiated by officials of both superpowers as a means of pressuring Israel.

Israeli officials maintained that the time frame “did not come up” during a brief telephone conversation between Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Secretary of State James Baker, who is in Moscow.

The conversation Tuesday focused primarily on Baker’s return visit to Jerusalem, expected before the end of the week, Israeli sources said. Shamir said Monday he expects to be “wrapping up” Israel’s response with Baker when he gets here.

Israel Radio reported Tuesday night that Shamir and his senior ministers would hold decisive consultations Wednesday night to establish Israel’s response. Foreign Minister David Levy is returning from his two-day visit to Cairo to participate.

Israelis reacted coldly meanwhile to indications from Moscow that the Soviet Union will withhold the formal resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel until “progress” is made at the peace conference.

The expectation here had been that full diplomatic relations would be restored as soon as Israel agreed to attend the peace conference or, at the latest, when the conference opened.

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