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Albright predicts `a long way’ until a revival in negotiations

JERUSALEM, Sept. 11 (JTA) – U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright believes there is a “long way to go” before Israel and the Palestinians will be able to revive peace negotiations. “So far we have managed to get agreement on the fact that terrorists are terrible, but we have not, I think, yet been able to see what the best methods are to get the peace process back on track,” Albright said Thursday after more than two hours of talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah. In a second meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the secretary asked Israel to freeze all Jewish settlement activity, a request that the premier reportedly rejected. Albright made a similar call later in the day during a visit to a school for gifted Jewish and Arab children. “Israel should refrain from unilateral acts, including what the Palestinians perceive as provocative expansion of settlements, land confiscations, home demolitions and confiscations of IDs,” she said. Earlier in the day, Albright said the United States understood the “suffering” the Palestinians had endured as a result of the Israeli sanctions imposed by the Netanyahu government. But she reiterated that Arafat had to crack down on the “dastardly” acts of suicide bombers. Albright said that while she was heartened by the Palestinian leader’s pledge to take action, U.S. officials would wait to see if the self-rule authority did, in fact, implement a sustained battle against terrorism. “To be effective, the Palestinian Authority’s fight must be comprehensive, relentless and sustained. It cannot be pursued only when it is convenient to do so. As Chairman Arafat knows, fighting terror is a 24-hour-a-day job.” In his remarks, Arafat denounced terrorism. “We do not believe in violence or terrorism,” he said. “We reject it.” But he did not indicate whether his self-rule authority was planning to launch the kind of wide-scale crackdown and arrests of Islamic militants demanded by Israel. Albright also directed criticism at Israel for policies she said have caused the Palestinians much suffering. “These have not been easy years. The Palestinians have suffered a great deal, including the human costs of closures, of restrictions on movements and of housing demolitions and land confiscations.” She also censured Israel for withholding tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the July 30 double suicide bombing in Jerusalem. “It makes it more difficult to have the kind of political environment that is necessary for this partnership to go forward,” Albright said. Israel Radio reported that in her meeting with Arafat, Albright appealed to the Palestinian Authority leader for assistance in searching for a missing Israeli man who was feared to have been kidnapped by terrorists. Police officials said they were not ruling out any possible explanation for the man’s disappearance. Ya’acov Schwartz, a 63-year-old resident of Bnei Brak, disappeared this week after visiting his father’s grave in Ashkelon. Police found his abandoned car. A skullcap and shirt from an Israeli army uniform were found in the car, prompting Schwartz’s daughter, Ilana, to believe that her father had been kidnapped by an Islamic militant who was dressed as an Israeli soldier. While Schwartz’s wallet was found, his identity card was also missing. Israel informed the Palestinian Authority, which conducted searches in the Gaza Strip.

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