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Rabin and Arafat Continue Debate over Timing of Withdrawal, Elections

Israeli and Palestinian leaders are continuing their debate over how to proceed with the next phase of negotiations.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is once again suggesting that Israeli troops might remain in the West Bank while the Palestinians hold their elections.

Rabin raised the possibility on Monday while speaking to reporters aboard a flight to the Far East. He said that security problems which would be created by the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank could prolong current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations regarding the timing of Palestinian elections.

According to the Palestinian self-rule accord signed last year, Israel is supposed to withdrew its troops from the West Bank prior to the holding of Palestinian elections.

In Stockholm, Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat rejected Rabin’s proposal out of hand.

“I am astonished because no one can accept to carry on an election in the presence of the occupying power,” he said at a news conference.

Arafat was in Stockholm on Monday for a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at which they discussed the thorny issue of the Israeli troop withdrawals.

They were unable to reach a breakthrough during discussions a day earlier in Oslo, where the two, along with Rabin, received the Nobel Peace prize.

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