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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       May 7, 1996 V4, #83
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Jerusalem Talks May Take More Than Three Years

By Al Pessin (VOA-Taba, Sinai)

Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to establish a small steering committee to manage their talks on a permanent peace settlement -- a move the top Israeli negotiator says is a key step toward effective negotiations. The first round of these talks was held Sunday and Monday.

In a joint communique, read by Palestinian official Sa'eb Erakat, the two sides announce creation of the steering committee and say it will have the power to set the structure and methods of what could be three years or more of talks.

Chief Israeli negotiator Uri Savir says the steering committee is crucial because there he and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, can speak freely.

Savir says such a secret committee enabled them to explore the kind of creative and politically risky ideas which formed the basis for their last agreement. He said he believes such a system is the best way to tackle the even more difficult issues now before them.

Savir says that process already started in what he called a very interesting way during this first round of talks. He says the kind of discreet meetings they have planned were also used in recent weeks to rescue the Israeli-Palestinian peace process from what he calls its greatest crisis, after four suicide bombings in Israel by Palestinian militants in late February and early March.

Those secret meetings, and the session here on Sunday and Monday, also resulted in agreement to resume and intensify implementation of the agreement signed last year, which calls for further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank and other moves which Israel postponed after the recent bombings. But the two men did not give any new timetable.

Savir and Abbas have been involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process since the secret talks in Oslo three-years ago. But the agreement they produced then, and several subsequent ones, intentionally left the most difficult issues until now -- Palestinian statehood, the future of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and a future Israel-Palestinian border.

The two men say they have very different views on those issues, and they expect difficult talks, even criss from time to time. But they both say they are determined to reach an agreement to bring a definitive end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel Rejects UN Report on Shelling of Camp

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Israel has categorically rejected a preliminary UN report it deliberately attacked a camp in Lebanon, killing 102 refugees. The deaths of the Lebanese civilians who had fled their villages during Israeli shelling of Hizbullah terrorists, shocked the world and spurred the United States to negotiate an end to the fighting.

Israel's deputy Chief-of-Staff has defended the army's decision to open fire near Kana Camp, saying the target of the shelling was a Hizbullah mortar which was attacking Israeli forces.

Israel insists shelling of the UN peacekeepers' camp was a mistake. In a briefing to reporters on the army's final inquiry into the incident, Maj. Gen. Matan Vilna'y said map errors had misled Israeli artillery into firing into the camp.

But Vilna'y denied reported UN findings the army knew civilians had sought refuge in the camp and had deliberately fired on them. "The main issue is the exact location of the camp, and it was a mistake about the location of the camp of about between 200-300 meters. Secondly, the system of how to measure the distance from the camp to the mortar site was wrong because we believed it was only a small point, but it was a camp."

Vilna'y said although Israel had been told by the United Nations refugees had taken shelter with them, no specific locations had been given. He denied the army continued shelling Kana Camp after the UN sounded the alarm.

A preliminary report by UN investigators into the incident says two or three Hizbullah terrorists ran into the camp after firing mortars nearby. But the draft also reports the remains of 15 shells in the peacekeepers' camp, evidence of a heavy bombardment and not an accidental misfiring.

BBC Television Monday aired an amateur videotape, taken by a UN soldier, which shows Israeli shells repeatedly hitting the camp. The film also shows an Israeli reconnaissance plane was in the area.

At the briefing Vilna'y confirmed the presence of the reconnaissance drone, but insisted it had nothing to do with the attack. An Israeli government spokesman says the drone could not see anything at the time because of bad weather.

Israel's offensive was aimed at curbing Hizbullah rocket attacks against northern Israel. It killed more than 200 people, most of them civilians, and drove hundreds-of-thousands of residents of south Lebanon from their homes.

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