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News Briefs

Israelis and Palestinians Begin ‘Final Status’ Talks on Key Issues

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- JERUSALEM

With a self-imposed one-year deadline for ending decades of conflict, Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Monday opened historic negotiations on the last and most difficult issues blocking a definitive peace.

In a nighttime ceremony at a forlorn border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials clasped hands and staked out diametrically opposed views on their core differences: final borders, who gets Jerusalem and what happens to more than 3 million Palestinian refugees.

U.S. and European envoys looked on as Foreign Minister David Levy, head of the Israeli delegation, and the senior Palestinian negotiator, Mahmoud Abbas, pledged to exhaust every opportunity to reach a settlement on the so-called “final status” issues.

“We are now entering the last phase,” Levy said after meeting with Abbas. “This agreement, with God’s help, will end the 100-year conflict that has caused so much pain for the two peoples.”

No WTO Deal at APEC Meeting

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Asia-Pacific leaders wrapped up three days of meetings Monday with proposals to reduce trade barriers, strengthen the World Trade Organization and improve financial markets in the wake of the Asia crisis.

After a late Sunday breakthrough in the political crisis over neighboring East Timor, leaders from the 21 APEC member economies finally found themselves in a position to pay a bit more attention to business.

Indonesia defused the crisis, at least temporarily, by announcing it would back down and allow an international peace-keeping force into the strife-torn island -- the site of recent, widespread military-backed genocide.

The most important economic development at APEC, a decision by Washington and Beijing to resume negotiations over China’s entry into the WTO, failed to produce a deal.

Since the agreement Saturday by presidents Clinton and Jiang Zemin to resume negotiations, however, several more bilateral meetings have been held. This has raised expectations the two sides can narrow their differences after a 13-year standoff and bring China in before the next WTO round of trade talks starts Nov. 30 in Seattle.

Peacekeepers Warn Yugoslav Army Against Trying to Re-Enter Kosovo

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- PRISTINA, YUGOSLAVIA

International peacekeeping forces in Kosovo issued a strong warning to the Serb-led Yugoslav military Monday against trying to re-enter the province.

Maj. Ole Irgens, spokesman for the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping troops, said that recent disturbances in the northern Kosovo city of Kosovska Mitrovica “seem to have been carefully orchestrated” and could be an attempt by Serbian paramilitary groups to destabilize the region.

And while denying that the move was linked to the Yugoslav threats, Irgens announced that KFOR troops would hold training exercises in rural areas of Kosovo over the next two weeks.

The KFOR warning came after a top Yugoslav military commander threatened last week to send his army back into Kosovo. Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic complained that KFOR troops were not living up to the agreement that ended the war, and left a door open for a limited Yugoslav military return to areas deemed of vital interest to Serbs.