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Progress Cited in Self-rule Talks; Violence Persists in the Territories

Progress has been reported in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for implementing self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho amid reports of persisting violence and unrest in the administered territories.

Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organization officials reported Tuesday that they had achieved “progress on several issues” at the end of two days of what they described as “intensive talks” in Cairo.

In a brief joint statement, the two delegations said they had decided to meet again next week, but they did not say where. Nor did they reveal the specific nature of what they had achieved this week.

The secretive attitude was not unintentional.

The talks this week were conducted at an undisclosed site in the Egyptian capital with the specific intention of avoiding media coverage.

The closed-mouthed tactic was decided upon after the previous round of talks broke down last week at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba.

The Palestinians suspended last week’s round of talks when they rejected Israel’s proposed troop withdrawals from Gaza as falling far short of their expectations.

The crisis was resolved following the intervention of Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, who briefly visited Israel last week and met with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

The Israeli and Palestinian delegations made a point of thanking Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for hosting this week’s round of talks.

The self-rule accord signed by Israel and the PLO in Washington on Sept. 13 requires that the two parties reach a detailed agreement for Palestinian control of Gaza and Jericho by Dec. 13, when Israel is scheduled to begin removing its troops from the two regions.

But the continuing violence in the territories has left Israeli settlers in both areas fearing for their future.

On Tuesday, an Israeli Arab was killed in Gaza City during an attack by Arab terrorists who had commandeered a truck and smashed into his car.

The 38-year-old Bedouin from the Negev died instantly after his car was rammed into by three masked men who fled the scene, prompting a widespread hunt by security forces.

For the third day in a row, Jewish settlers blocked roads in the territories Tuesday and stoned Arab cars, protesting recent terrorist attacks on Israelis.

ARAFAT LASHES OUT AT SYRIA

Rabin met Tuesday with representatives of Jewish settlers groups.

Israeli settlers have been engaged in violent demonstrations during the past two weeks to protest what they see as a failure by the government to protect them against terrorist attacks.

The prime minister, in turn, has had harsh words for the settlers, accusing them of trying to foil the peace process.

He infuriated them recently when he appeared to equate their protests with Arab terrorist acts. Rabin subsequently stated that he did see a distinction.

The settlers’ leaders briefed the prime minister on their security concerns and reached an agreement to establish a committee to mediate between them and the government.

Rabin agreed to meet at a site in the territories with a larger group of representatives when he returns from his visit to the United States, scheduled for later this week.

In Brussels for his first official meeting at European Community headquarters and for a speech before the Belgian Parliament, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat lashed out at Syria for giving a free hand to those opposed to the peace accord.

Arafat told the parliament that Syrian President Hafez Assad “is not against the (self-rule) agreement and not with the agreement. But at the same time he’s giving a free hand to the opposition.”

While in Brussels, Arafat told a gathering of Belgian businesspersons that the territories would need more than $13 billion for development and another $10 billion in foreign investment during the next seven years.

Eiso Woltjer, a member of the European Parliament, said during a radio interview Tuesday that prior to giving aid to the territories, the E.C. should ascertain that the funds will directly benefit the Palestinian population and not be spent on prestigious large-scale projects, such as the construction of airfields and harbors.

(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Henriette Boas in Amsterdam.)

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