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Israel rejects Arafat’s proposal for international observer force

JERUSALEM, Dec. 28 (JTA) — Israel has rejected a Palestinian proposal to place international observers in areas of the West Bank that Israel considers essential to its security. Palestinian officials said the proposal was part of a comprehensive plan Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat planned to raise in discussions in Washington next month with President Clinton. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the plan was intended to rescue the peace process from crisis and expressed the Palestinian Authority’s “acceptance of international observers in its territories.” The Palestinian proposal comes as senior Israeli ministers have been debating which West Bank lands to retain in a final-status accord in order to satisfy Israeli security concerns. David Bar-Illan, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was quoted as describing the Palestinian proposition for an international observer force as an old idea that is as unacceptable today as it was 10 years ago. Both Arafat and Netanyahu are due to meet separately with Clinton in Washington next month. Israeli media reported that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders might also attend a joint meeting next month with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington or Europe next aimed at drawing up a package deal for advancing the faltering peace talks.

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