Leaders sign pact to 'rebuild trust and renew hope'
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Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EDT (1913 GMT)
WYE MILLS, Maryland (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat praised each other Friday at a White House ceremony to sign the interim peace agreement they reached after an all-night negotiating session. U.S. President Bill Clinton called it an agreement to "rebuild trust and renew hope."
The signing ceremony of the document dubbed the Wye Mills Memorandum was expected to take place in the East Room of the White House on Friday afternoon, sources said.
Sources told CNN early Friday that the breakthrough agreement had been reached as the peace talks entered their ninth day.
But the formal announcement of the agreement, and the expected signing ceremony, were postponed due to a last- minute snag -- a request from the Israelis that the United States release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Pollard was apprehended by U.S. officials in the mid-1980s, and convicted in 1987 on treason and espionage charges for giving U.S. intelligence information to the Israelis.
As of early Friday afternoon, the particulars of the dispute over Pollard had not been released, and it was unclear how it was resolved.
But, sources told CNN, after hours of talks, Clinton and Netanyahu had agreed that the Pollard issue should not continue to delay the signing of the interim peace accord -- a deal that still must be approved by the Israeli parliament.
Deal must be signed by sundown
The signing ceremony had been imperiled by the dispute over whether Clinton agreed to Pollard's release during the all-night bargaining session as a way to win Israel's agreement on the interim peace accord.
The Israelis said he did.
The White House said he did not.
It is still not clear how that dispute was resolved.
"Any comments or suggestions President Clinton committed to the release or promised the release of Jonathan Pollard are false and inaccurate," White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart told reporters at Wye Mills.
Lockhart said Clinton understands the talks are difficult but was "surprised and disappointed" by the last-minute snag.
Under the rules of the Jewish Sabbath, the signing ceremony must be held by sundown for the Israelis to participate.
Once the memorandum is signed, officials say the final-status talks will begin immediately. Those talks will center on such contentious issues as the status of Jerusalem and the borders for a possible Palestinian state.
The final status talks must be completed by May 4, 1999, when the Oslo accords expire.
The agreement reached Friday includes a concrete security plan designed to curb violence in the region -- from both Palestinian and Jewish extremists.
Other issues in the deal include:
The document also states that unilateral actions -- such as the building of settlements, housing demolitions and a possible declaration of a Palestinian state by Arafat -- should not occur.
U.S. officials say Clinton invested an enormous amount of personal time trying to bring the two sides to closure on the deal.
The idea, according to the Clinton administration, was to settle these outstanding issues in order to make it possible to speed up final-status talks.
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