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Mubarak urges Netanyahu to accept U.S. proposal

In this report:

April 28, 1998
Web posted at: 7:40 p.m. EDT (2340 GMT)

CAIRO (CNN) -- Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that he must implement agreements made with the Palestinians for the Middle East peace process to advance.

Mubarak and Netanyahu met for 90 minutes Tuesday in Cairo, and the Israeli leader left after spending little more than two hours in Egypt.

Neither spoke with the media afterward, but sources say Mubarak encouraged Netanyahu to accept a U.S. proposal that reportedly calls for Israel to withdraw from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank in exchange for security guarantees from the Palestinians.

Israel has insisted that it cannot give up more than 9 percent without compromising its security. Israel radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu was likely to offer more than 9 percent, but not 13 percent.

A statement carried by the state-owned Middle East News Agency said, "President Mubarak reiterated that the only means by which progress may be achieved and the peace process revived is the strict implementation of all agreements signed by the two parties, in particular the implementation of further redeployments," the statement said.

"Mubarak advised Prime Minister Netanyahu to respond positively to the U.S. initiative, which represents the minimum of what is necessary to revive the peace process," it said.

Netanyahu urged to do 'everything he can'

Henry Siegman, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a private U.S. group, also met with Mubarak and said the Egyptian leader told Netanyahu to do "everything he can" to make his next meeting on the peace process a success.

Netanyahu is to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in London next week. Albright also plans to meet separately with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

An Israeli official in Jerusalem said Tuesday that Netanyahu told Mubarak that Palestinian flexibility was the key to breaking the deadlock in the peace process.

The peace talks were suspended in March 1997 after Israel began building a Jewish housing project in a disputed area on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Suicide bombings that killed many Israelis and disputes over Israeli troop withdrawals have hardened the stances taken by each side.

Mubarak speaks with Tony Blair

Israeli settlers echoed their government's position again Tuesday, saying that to withdraw from more than 9 percent of the West Bank would threaten their security by surrounding them with Palestinian-controlled areas.

But Palestinian officials said they were reassured by U.S. mediators Tuesday that the United States will not allow its proposal to be watered down by Israel at the London conference.

Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, has indicated it is frustrated at the pace of negotiations. Mubarak has said he does not trust Netanyahu, whom Arabs blame for the halt in the peace process.

Egyptian state television reported that Mubarak spoke by telephone Tuesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Jordan's King Hussein about the peace talks.

Martin Indyk, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told reporters after meeting Mubarak on Tuesday that he was concerned about the consequences if the London talks fail.

"What is very important here is that both sides come to that meeting with a view to making it a success, and we certainly want that meeting to be a success," he said. "We are very concerned about the consequences if we do not now achieve a breakthrough and put the process back on track."

London meeting 'critical'

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told Egyptian television in an interview from Gaza on Tuesday that any failure of the London talks would throw the peace process into grave danger.

"If the two parties, particularly Israel, don't agree to the implementation of the U.S. initiative, which represents the minimum which Arabs or Palestinians accept, I think peace will be in danger and the peace process can't stand up to this challenge," Moussa said.

"Everyone agrees that the London meeting is potentially a critical chapter in the peace process which either opens up the hope for continuation or closes an important chapter of history," Siegman said.

By the terms of the 1993 Oslo peace accord, Israel and the Palestinians must hammer out a final peace deal by May 4, 1999. Arafat has said the deal must include provisions for a Palestinian state, and that if it doesn't, he will declare one anyway.

Netanyahu further inflamed Arab sentiment Monday by saying he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state because it would jeopardize Israel's security.

Correspondent James Martone and Reuters contributed to this report.


Struggle For Peace
B A C K G R O U N D   I    K E Y   P L A Y E R S   I   M A P S


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