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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Dec. 13, 1995, V3, #226
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Is Christopher Carrying Golan Withdrawal Proposal?

By Ron Pemstein (VOA-Washington)

Secretary of State Warren Christopher leaves Washington early today to see if there is substance in the Israeli-Syrian negotiations on a Middle East peace. He will fly from Paris to Damascus and then to Jerusalem to see if there are more than words behind the promising language coming from both Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The American secretary of state has been down that road before. In March and June, he established a line of direct talks between their ambassadors and then later between their military leaders. However, those security talks in Washington broke down in late June and were never resumed.

The State Department admits the last six months on the Israeli-Syrian negotiations have been moribund. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns says the atmosphere has changed but differences remain over the Golan Heights.

American mediator Dennis Ross has been in both Damascus and Jerusalem over the last week and Peres has brought to Washington unspecified proposals that Christopher will pass on to Assad.

The two sides have differed over the extent of the Israeli troop withdrawal from the Golan Heights as well as early warning systems, zones of separation and what kind of future relationship Israel and Syria will have.

Peres Addresses Joint Session of Congress

By Paula Wolfson (VOA-Washington)

Israel's new prime minister says an historic opportunity now exists for a comprehensive Middle East peace. Shimon Peres spoke those words during an emotional speech to a joint meeting of Congress.

The booming voice of Yitzhak Rabin seemed to echo slightly in the chamber of the House of Representatives as Peres made his way to the podium. It was a whisper of remembrance. "It was but a year ago that on this very podium there stood before you -- in a partnership of hope -- King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. And Rabin is no more."

Yitzhak Rabin may be gone, said his successor, but his dream of peace is alive. "I stand before you with one overriding commitment: to yield to no threat, to stop at no obstacle in negotiating the hurdles ahead; in seeking security for our people, peace for our land, tranquility for our region."

He said there was a message in the eyes of the mourners, in those who lit candles for their slain leader, and in the tears of the young. "I heard the appeal, nay the order, 'Carry on....carry on.' This is my task."

Security was unusually tight in the House chamber as he spoke. But Israel's new leader seemed undeterred by the risks he faces in pursuing peace, and used his appearance before American lawmakers to make a personal appeal to Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

"Without forgetting the past, let us not look back. Let fingertips touch a new untested hope. Let each party yield to the other, each giving consideration to the respective needs of the other -- mutually so, he to us, we to him. Without illusion but with resolve, we shall stand ready to make demanding decisions -- if you are."

Peres said the hurdles are many: mountains of suspicion, and chasms of prejudice. But he said Israel is willing to try. "We shall try to forge the peace with Syria and Lebanon expeditiously so that, before the curtain of the 20th century shall fall, we shall see, all of us, the emergence of a Middle East of peace."

Peres said Israel looks to the US for moral support. He recalled the last moments of Rabin's life as he joined in a song of peace at a rally in Tel Aviv. Speaking slowly, in careful English, the Israeli prime minister said softly "The singer is not with us, the song remains."

Israel Withdraws from Nablus

By Al Pessin (VOA-Nablus)

Israel withdrew from the large West Bank city of Nablus overnight, in keeping with the latest peace accord. The Israeli move left local residents to celebrate and plan for a future under self rule.

The streets of Nablus were jammed Tuesday with people celebrating the departure of the Israelis and the arrival of autonomy. Men marched through the streets and people toured the central prison, where Israel once held hundreds of Palestinians, many of them for resisting the 28-year occupation.

Nablus is known for its activism, opposition to authority, and armed gangs. But local officials and many local residents interviewed Tuesday say the departure of the Israeli troops is the most important element in changing that, and beginning to bring the city's people together.

Nablus was the third West Bank city to gain autonomy under the peace accord signed in September. Three more, and part of a fourth, are to get autonomy by the end of this month, in time for the start of the Palestinian election campaign.

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