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Arafat will decide in two weeks whether to link Wye, final status

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JERUSALEM, July 27 (JTA) — Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will spend the next two weeks thinking about whether to accept an Israeli proposal to integrate implementation of the Wye accord into final- status talks. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak presented the proposal to Arafat during a meeting between the two leaders at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Tuesday night. Barak stressed that Israel would fully uphold the U.S.-brokered land-for-security deal regardless of Arafat’s decision as long as the Palestinians met their commitments, including the fight against terrorism. “We intend to uphold the Wye accord,” Barak said. “It is a signed agreement by the government of Israel.” The two leaders described their discussions as “frank” and “candid.” It was their second working meeting since Barak’s election in May. Arafat repeated the Palestinian demand for full implementation of Wye, including further withdrawals from the West Bank; opening of a safe-passage route traveling between the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the release of Palestinian prisoners; and the construction of the Gaza seaport. Arafat also called for implementation of economic accords linked to the Oslo process and demanded a freeze on Jewish settlements. He added that the two sides had agreed to form a joint committee regarding the third phase of the further redeployment. Arafat said the Palestinians were ready to fully uphold their commitments under the signed agreements. “We reiterated our full commitment to implement all our obligations pertaining to agreements signed, including our security commitments,” Arafat said. “We will continue with our policy of zero-tolerance to violence and terror, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis.” Barak just completed a flurry of diplomatic discussions in Washington, London and Rabat, Morocco, and his pace has only slightly lessened since he returned to Israel after attending the funeral of Moroccan King Hassan. In addition to his talks with Arafat, the Israeli prime minister is scheduled to have a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria on Thursday. Israel Radio on Tuesday quoted political sources in Jerusalem as saying Barak may travel to Russia soon for further discussions on the Middle East peace process.

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