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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                     March 9, 1995, V3, #46
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Secretary of State Re-starts Mideast Diplomacy

Christopher Arrives in Egypt

By Ron Pemstein (Cairo)

US Secretary of State Warren Christopher is in Egypt, the first stop on his five-country Middle East tour. Christopher is hoping to narrow differences with Egypt over the peace process and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa insists his country can remain an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs despite differences with Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians and Israel's refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Christopher wants to narrow those differences, especially on the NPT treaty where the United States is pushing for unlimited extension at the review conference next month. Egypt's position is that it will not agree to an indefinite extension of the treaty if Israel refuses to sign it and to put its nuclear program under international inspection.

Moussa tells reporters after meeting Christopher, Egypt is willing to talk about the issue but not to change its position. "From the standpoint that the NPT is a treaty for everybody, not for one side and the other side will be exempt from it; (therefore) we shall continue to talk to the Israelis and we shall continue to discuss the matter with the Americans and the Europeans, and other countries. But our position remains the same -- we cannot commit ourselves to accepting a condition while Israel is exempted from it."

US officials say they have a better understanding of the Egyptian position before the morning meeting with President Mubarek. Christopher moves on to Tel-Aviv in the afternoon to meet Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Israeli-Palestinian issue will be getting attention from Christopher when he meets Yasir Arafat in Gaza on Friday and again when Arafat meets Mubarek on Saturday.

Israel refuses to give the Palestinians more authority in the West Bank and to redeploy its army there until Arafat gives more guarantees about security.

Israel and Palestinians Await Secretary

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)
Israeli and Palestinian leaders are at odds over several key issues, as senior officials prepare to meet today and US Secretary of State Warren Christopher flies in to meet with leaders on both sides later today and on Friday.

The Palestinian leaders want to move more quickly toward expanding autonomy. The Israeli leaders are concerned about security, particularly in an expanded Palestinian zone. The Palestinian leaders say further delays could destroy the peace process.

The Israeli leaders say they are willing to move ahead, but moving too quickly or in the wrong way could also destroy the peace process. The tensions came out during a meeting in Amman Tuesday between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and a senior member of the Palestinian Autonomy Authority, Nabil Shaath.

Officials say the two men clashed in private talks over the pace and scope of a planned repatriation program for Palestinians who were displaced from Gaza and the West Bank by the 1967 war.

Afterwards, their disagreement became public in uncharacteristically undiplomatic comments in separate meetings with reporters.

First, Peres was told Shaath had said there is no question about the right of the displaced persons to return to Gaza and the West Bank.

"Well, Mr. Shaath has the right to say whatever he wants." (Pessin asks:) So, you think there is a question about their right to return to the West Bank and Gaza? (Peres answers:) There is clearly a question, and no decision was taken, and there is no answer to the question."

Told about that, Shaath had this sharp reply. "Mr. Peres responds to key words in his political dictionary. Some Israelis shiver when they hear the words "right of return." So? (chuckle)."

It is that kind of atmosphere which awaits Christopher. Israeli and Palestinian officials do not even agree on whether he should play a role in helping to solve their dispute. A senior adviser to the Palestinian leadership, Nabil abu Irdeineh, says the Christopher visit is important because a way must be found to break the stalemate which began six weeks ago, when 21 Israelis were killed in a terrorist attack by an extremist Palestinian group. He says the peace process "needs a push" and he is depending on Christopher to provide it.

"Definitely, the Palestinians are looking forward to the visit of Secretary of State Christopher because the peace process has been delayed, the peace process is almost in a stalemate, the peace process is facing a very sensitive and dangerous situation. It's very important that the Americans get involved, otherwise we are all facing a big crisis in the area." In contrast, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Yossi Beilin, says the Christopher visit is mainly about the deadlocked Israel-Syria talks, and will not be important for the Israeli-Palestinian issues. "Well, that has nothing to do with Christopher's visit. I think that we are proceeding with the Palestinians. We meet them quite often on the highest level."

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