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Arafat, Israeli Aide to Discuss Possible Resumption of Talks

By Caryle Murphy
The Washington Post
CAIRO

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sought Monday to rescue the faltering Middle East peace talks in the first top-level Palestinian-Israeli meeting since a Jewish settler massacred dozens of Palestinians at a mosque in the West Bank Feb. 25.

The meeting between Rabin adviser Jacques Neriah and Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was "a starting point" in which the two "explained their positions and went home," according to a source close to the talks. It was unclear whether they narrowed differences over PLO demands aimed at increasing Palestinian security in the Israeli-occupied territories, where militant Jewish settlers - some of whom praised the massacre in Hebron - are widely armed.

In Jerusalem, government officials said Neriah discussed with Arafat what kind of moves Israel is prepared to make if the PLO returns to negotiations on self-rule, Washington Post correspondent David Hoffman reported. While Israel is insisting there be no changes in the accord signed last September, Nerieh told Arafat that Israel is offering a number of concessions, such as permitting a stronger Palestinian police force, the officials in Jerusalem said.

The main PLO demand, which Arafat says must be met before peace talks resume, is for an international force to enhance protection of Palestinians in the territories. PLO officials say the force must, at a minimum, be equipped with sidearms, and they want it deployed as soon as possible throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank.