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Rabin’s Office Denies Reports of a Meeting with King Hussein

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Press reports speculating that Yitzhak Rabin held a secret meeting this week with Jordan’s King Hussein have been roundly denied by officials close to the Israeli prime minister.

But the rumors persist nevertheless, with officials in the Prime Minister’s Office conceding that if there were any truth to the reports, they would not be able to confirm them.

Rumors of such a meeting spread here after Rabin canceled scheduled appearances, including several speeches, from 2 p.m. Sunday until late Monday, with no clear explanation why.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Monday saying that Rabin had changed his schedule so that he could attend exercises of an elite security unit Sunday night.

Hussein is said to be concerned about the implications for his country, a majority of whose population is Palestinian, of the accord signed in Washington by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

If such a meeting took place, it would not be the first between a high-level Israeli official and the Jordanian monarch. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was widely reported to have met in London several years ago with the king and reached preliminary agreement on a framework for peace negotiations. That framework ultimately was rejected by the Israeli government.

EGYPT READY TO HOST TALKS

In Cairo, meanwhile, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Monday that Egypt was willing to host talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials if it would help push the peace process forward.

The remarks followed reports that Israeli and Palestinian representatives would meet in Egypt soon to negotiate implementation of the self-rule accord signed Sept. 13 in Washington.

Earlier this week, Israel proposed holding these talks in the Sinai towns of Taba or El-Arish, both of which are under Egyptian control.

On the Israeli domestic political scene, meanwhile, several right-wing Knesset members have begun talking openly of forming a national unity government between the governing Labor Party and the Likud opposition.

In the past, Israel has formed national unity governments in times of crisis, such as the Six-Day War of 1967, or when neither party was able to form a coalition without the other, as in 1984.

Likud Knesset member Michael Eitan raised the idea earlier this week, and he was joined Monday by Knesset members Silvan Shalom of Likud and Gonen Segev of the Tsomet party.

Speaking on the radio, Eitan and Segev said that this was the only way that Likud and Tsomet would be able to ensure that they could reduce the security risks to Israel of the self-rule agreement with the Palestinians.

But on the same day, Labor’s Knesset faction rejected the idea of a national unity government.

Eli dayan, chairman of the party’s Knesset delegation, said that even the mere discussion of the idea could work against the peace process.

The fact that the initiative for such a move came from Likud, said Dayan, served as proof that the accord with the PLO had been accepted by the majority of the Israeli people.

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