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White House: Talks with Arafat yield progress
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House officials Wednesday reported "progress" in talks between Palestinians and U.S. officials as they tried to reach an agreement that would allow a resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on a final peace accord.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat came to Washington for meetings with U.S. President Bill Clinton on Tuesday, and planned to leave on Wednesday for Cairo, Egypt, where he was to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with Arab League ministers.
In Ramallah, West Bank, a senior Palestinian official said the next step in the contentious peace process was up to the Americans and the Israelis.
"President Clinton listened in two meetings (to) our reservations on his initiative," said Palestinian Cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "And he promised that he will discuss these reservations with the Israeli side. The ball is in the American and the Israeli court."
Clinton had hoped Arafat would accept proposals he advanced last month as a basis for negotiating a final agreement between the Mideast adversaries, but officials late Tuesday said only that Arafat had agreed to intensify efforts to stop terrorism.
Israelis: Exchange 'positive'
In Jerusalem, Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said he believed the Clinton-Arafat meeting indicated the Palestinians are serious about the framework Clinton has proposed.
"I think the exchange of talks in Washington was positive," he said. "The general impression is that the Palestinians are considering very seriously the American initiative and they may give a positive answer."
But Barak said on Tuesday he doubted a deal could be brokered before Clinton leaves office on January 20, or even before he faces reelection on February 6. He said he would turn his attention to security measures, but added that Israel would be willing to take part in negotiations on Clinton's proposals if the Palestinians accept them.
The Palestinians and Israelis have broad disagreements over several issues, particularly over Palestinian insistence on the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in what is now Israel when Israel became a state in 1948 -- and sovereignty over an east Jerusalem site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
Known as the Temple Mount to Jews and as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, the site was the focal point on September 28 for the beginning of the latest round of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Since that time, 328 Palestinians have died, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, along with 45 Israeli Jews and 13 Israeli Arabs.
CNN Correspondents Kelly Wallace and Matthew Chance contributed to this report.
Arafat concludes second meeting with Clinton
Palestinian National Authority
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