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News Briefs 2

Netanyahu Prepared to Tackle Toughest Issues on Peace

Los Angeles Times

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday looked ahead, past the present, bitter dispute over when Israel will withdraw its troops from the West Bank town of Hebron and said he is ready to tackle the toughest issues that have kept Israel and the Palestinains from peace.

But Netanyahu's remarks to Israeli lawmakers, which came as the Palestinians and Israelis opened formal talks on Hebron, drew scathing criticism from former Prime Minister Shimon Peres and skepticism from Palestinian officials and analysts.

Peres, the Labor Party leader who helped hammer out the landmark interim agreement with the Palestinians in 1993, used unusually harsh language to accuse his successor of employing delaying tactics and insincerity in his approach to the peace negotiations.

"Either there's real peace, for which the price has to be paid, or there are empty declarations, the price of which is heavier and more horrible still," said Peres, who was defeated by Netanyahu in Israel's national elections in May.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Cabinet, also expressed skepticism. "The important thing is not to talk about (peace) but to move forward with implementation" of key aspects of the signed agreements, including the Hebron redeployment, Ashrawi said.

Palestinian frustration over perceived Israeli foot-dragging on the peace process exploded in violence a week and a half ago, leaving at least 75 people dead and more than 1,000 injured in clashes in the West Bank and Gaza.

But in a move apparently aimed at pushing the peace process forward, Israeli President Ezer Weizman announced that he will hold talks Tuesday with Arafat at Weizman's home.

Justice Dept. Probes Lottery Board In D.C. over FundsMishandling

The Washington Post

Federal investigators are trying to determine whether hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations by the District of Columbia Lottery Board to local community organizations were handed out for political purposes by board members rather than to cover legitimate lottery expenses.

The donations, to groups such as Korean American Groceries ($5,000) and St. Timothy's Episcopal Church ($1,500), generally were for advertisements in souvenir programs for banquets and award events and were paid through the board's annual advertising budget, according to former board members.

According to a listing of the payments provided to the D.C. financial control board, the lottery board spent more than $300,000 in the same period to sponsor events by such groups as Fight for Children Inc. ($30,000) and the Washington Urban League Football Classic ($15,000), also as part of the advertising budget.

Former lottery board members say that the board's chairman and executive director decided who would get the money and that the funds were viewed as the board's own "slush fund."