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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      May 30, 1995, V3, #99
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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The Road to Morocco Brings Peres and Arafat

By Laurie Kassman (Cairo) and Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators resumed talks Monday in Cairo about Palestinian self-rule for the West Bank and elections for a Palestinian Autonomy Council. The talks follow a surprise weekend meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, King Hassan and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat in Morocco.

Negotiations must intensify if a July 1 deadline is to be met. The two sides are still arguing about the timing and extent of a re-deployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank. They also disagree about rules for Palestinian elections, especially voting rights for Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

Arafat and Peres agreed during their weekend talks both sides remain committed to the July 1 deadline. It was their second meeting in a week, aimed at narrowing differences about election rules and Israeli security concerns. The two men also urged more regional economic cooperation to help bolster peace efforts.

In a telephone call from Rabat, Peres told Israel Radio he and Arafat renewed the atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation that had been damaged by the Jerusalem controversy. Peres says his late-night meeting with Arafat gave new impetus to the effort to reach agreement about expanding Palestinian autonomy by the July 1 deadline the two men set.

Peres did not give details of the talks, but the negotiations are focused on the timing and extent of an Israeli troop withdrawal from Palestinian population centers in the West Bank.

The foreign minister says these talks raise the level of participation by King Hassan in what Peres calls understanding and influencing all sides. Peres said Israel wants the king to renew his role in trying to generate regional support for the peace process, and for the Palestinians in particular. He spoke of the creation of joint-economic projects for the Palestinians, such as industrial parks, with foreign funding and regional participation.

Peres also said since the confiscation plan has been suspended, King Hassan agrees the issue of Jerusalem's future should be left to the next phase of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, scheduled to begin next year. The king is chairman of the Arab League's Jerusalem Committee.

While the Jerusalem issue was being set aside in the Rabat talks, Israelis were celebrating Jerusalem Day Sunday. The holiday marks the anniversary of Israel's capture of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians still hope to make their capital.

Israeli Relations with Asian Muslim Countries

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

The president of the former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, has concluded a three-day visit to Israel -- the first president from the predominantly Muslim new countries of Central Asia to visit the Jewish state. Israel wants to make friends with the strategically located countries of Central Asia.

The green flag of Turkmenistan, with its Islamic crescent moon, flew alongside Israel's blue and white Star of David flag throughout this city this week.

Niyazov received full honors at a welcoming ceremony at the Israeli president's house, and a full schedule of top-level meetings with the prime minister, the foreign minister and other officials. He toured Jerusalem's Old City and stopped by an Israeli collective farm, a kibbutz.

It was not a unique schedule for an official visitor to Israel, but Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor acknowledges Niyazov was a unique visitor.

"Of course, a fact of great importance is that we're talking here about Muslim countries, and we're extremely interested to maintain friendly relations with Muslim countries."

And there is more to it than that. Israel has been engaged in a major effort during the last few years to develop relations with the Central Asian countries partly because they are predominantly Islamic and also because they sit just north and east of Israel's sworn enemy, Iran. Turkmenistan was the last of the Central Asian countries to establish relations with Israel, partly because it has a 930-mile-long border with Iran.

Israel's relations with the newly independent states is mainly economic. Israel offers them technology for agriculture, environmental protection and water management, among other things. During the Turkmenistan president's visit, he signed agreements for cooperation in tourism, education and the protection of investments.

But Israeli officials acknowledge the main benefit for Israel of developing friendly relations with the Central Asia countries is to combat Iran's influence in the region. And Israel believes that is good for the generally secular Central Asian countries as well, whose governments see Iran-style fundamentalism as a potential threat. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor.

"I think that the benefit will not be exclusively Israeli. I think that the benefit for the whole region -- and when I say region I mean in the widest possible sense -- the benefit will be that there will be a set of reasonably pluralistic and free countries that will not engage in promoting terrorism all around Iran. And that will make it impossible, or extremely difficult, for Iran to go on with the policy that they have been maintaining ever since the revolution, and that is exporting the revolution."

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