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U.S. Hoping Delayed Peace Talks Can Be Restarted in About a Week

U.S. officials are expressing hope that the delay in reconvening the Arab-Israeli peace talks, which were to resume here Tuesday, will be relatively short.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Monday that the Arab parties “have not accepted for tomorrow, and there may be a delay of something like a week.”

The Palestinians, who had said they were not prepared to return to the negotiations until issues including the fate of some 400 Palestinians deported by Israel in December was resolved, succeeded in convincing other Arab parties to seek a delay in the talks.

Israel had been the only party to accept formally the joint U.S.-Russian invitation to resume the negotiations Tuesday, but Syria, Lebanon and Jordan had apparently been eager to return to the table.

The United States and Israel had previously said Israel would not be pressed to make more concessions to lure the Palestinians back to the negotiations, but Israel had planned to offer new proposals once the talks resumed.

Representatives of the Arab parties in Damascus reportedly spent the weekend and Monday discussing what the next step was to be.

Boucher told reporters that U.S. diplomats, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Assistant Secretary Edward Djerejian, were in touch with “a whole mix of people” to discuss the situation.

Christopher spoke over the weekend with the Syrian and Egyptian foreign ministers, Boucher said. He said Christopher remains optimistic that the parties will return to the talks.

“He continues to have confidence that they will return, and that confidence is based on our extensive discussions with the parties,” Boucher said.

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