Peres, Arafat Agree to Move Up Withdrawal from Jenin, Elections

The schedule for an Israeli army withdrawal from the West Bank town of Jenin has been moved ahead by three weeks.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres made the announcement Sunday after a meeting at the Erez Crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat.

“The withdrawal from Jenin will begin on Oct. 25th,” Peres told reporters.

He added that Palestinian elections will be held by Jan. 22, a move that would enable the voting to take place before Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

The elections would take place after Israel withdraws from six Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, but not before it redeploys in Hebron.

Under the terms of the agreement signed Sept. 28 in Washington, Israel was to redeploy from the six population centers and from most of Hebron before the holding of elections for a Palestinian council and for the head of the self- rule government.

The redeployment in Hebron is contingent upon completion of a bypass road to be used by Jewish settlers and Israeli troops. The road is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the end of March.

Peres and Arafat met Sunday after the PLO leader complained about what he felt was the slow pace of Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank in the wake of the agreement for expanding Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank.

Israeli withdrawals from four Arab villages in the West Bank last week were dismissed by Palestinians officials as a merely cosmetic move.

Israel had originally planned to withdraw from Jenin during the week of Nov. 19.

Peres and Arafat did not announce a specific schedule for the Israeli withdrawals from the other five Arab population centers besides Jenin – Nablus, Tulkarm, Kalkilya, Ramallah and Bethlehem.

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