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Netanyahu Ready to Resume Peace Talks with Palestinians

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As Israeli and Arab leaders headed to Washington for a summit meeting aimed at resolving the crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a resumption of peace talks.

“We are going to Washington committed to two basic principles: that the violence be stopped immediately and that negotiations begin, without prior conditions,” Netanyahu told reporters during his flight to Washington.

President Clinton called the summit after three days of violent clashes last week in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that left at least 14 Israelis and at least 55 Palestinians dead.

The two days of meetings were scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Participants were expected to include Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat and Jordan’s King Hussein.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had asked that the summit be postponed until next week, decided not to participate.

Netanyahu said he would propose that Israel and the Palestinians sit down next week to resume peace negotiations until all disputed issues are resolved.

On one of the most contentious issues, the Israel Defense Force redeployment from most of Hebron, Netanyahu stressed that the movement of Israeli forces, delayed for more than six months, would have to be adjusted in light of the recent developments.

“There must be adjustments to take the new security situation into account,” Netanyahu told Israel Radio. “I believe that with good will, they can be reached.”

Arafat, meanwhile, said the summit must yield substantive results.

“Most important is to find how to implement as accurately and as honestly what has been agreed upon,” Arafat said.

Arafat held consultations with Mubarak in Cairo on Monday, before traveling to Luxembourg, where he met with European Union leaders.

The West Bank and Gaza remained mostly quiet Monday, with some incidents of stone-throwing reported.

In Hebron, thousands of Israelis took part in a solidarity rally against a redeployment from most of the West Bank town. The Arab residents of the city remained under curfew, and no major incidents were reported.

Meanwhile, the archaeological tunnel in Jerusalem’s Old City, whose opening sparked the violence last week, was reopened after the Sabbath to visitors under heavy security.

Netanyahu rejected speculation that during the summit in Washington, the Palestinians would demand the closure of the tunnel.

“As far as I am concerned, it is not on the negotiating table,” Netanyahu said in a CNN interview.

He accused the Palestinians of using the opening of the tunnel to launch protests over their anger with the pace of the peace process. Palestinian claims that the tunnel posed a threat to Islamic holy sites were baseless, he said.

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