Arafat rejects latest West Bank offer
January 8, 1997
Web posted at: 1:05 p.m. EST (1805 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser
Arafat on Wednesday rejected an Israeli timetable for the
withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.
U.S. envoy Dennis Ross presented the offer to the Palestinian
leader in what an Arafat aide described as an "extremely
tense" six-hour meeting that began late Tuesday.
"The talks have hit a serious crisis," Arafat spokesman Nabil
Abourdeneh told the Voice of Palestine radio. "The Israelis
are threatening the peace process by making such proposals."
Ross simply said: "We have not resolved all the differences
Details of the proposal were not immediately clear. But
Arafat's rejection of the offer came a day after he turned
down another Israeli proposal that troop redeployment from
rural areas of the West Bank be delayed until 1999.
Arafat reportedly insisted on Wednesday that the Israeli
withdrawal from most of the West Bank be completed by
September 1997, as stipulated in a 1995 deal
signed by Netanyahu's predecessors.
Ross has been trying to arrange a meeting between
Arafat and Netanyahu so the two could conclude the agreement
on Hebron and further West Bank withdrawals. The first
meeting between the two leaders was held privately Sunday
Diplomatic sources have termed the Hebron talks "very close,"
"imminent" or down to the "last couple of issues" for two
weeks, but the two sides have been unable to agree on steps
to be taken after the Hebron redeployment.
Meanwhile, a helicopter remained outside Netanyahu's
Jerusalem office, ready to whisk him off to Gaza for a
possible summit with the Palestinian leader if Arafat and
Ross had reached a deal. But as the helicopter waited,
Netanyahu was denouncing the Oslo accords, calling them a
"bad agreement" he inherited. (867K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The Palestinians have demanded that Israel stick to the date
previously agreed upon, while Netanyahu has said he
wants the final redeployment tied to the conclusion of
all Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.
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