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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       June 21, 1996 V4, #111
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Labor Party Wants Election Recount

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's opposition Labor Party is appealing the results of the May 29 election, in which Likud head Benjamin Netanyahu narrowly defeated Labor Leader Shimon Peres. The Labor Party claims that it has discovered many cases of voting irregularities and fraud. Netanyahu beat Peres by less than 30,000 votes, or about 0.9 percent of the ballots.

According to the Labor Party, a random check of 57 polling stations showed that ballots were cast by Israeli citizens who were actually abroad on Election Day. Two ballots were cast by people listed as dead. If these samples are representative of other places, argues the party, then, by extrapolation, as many as 42,000 votes cast were invalid.

On Wednesday, the Labor Party filed a request with the Jerusalem District Court appealing the results of the election. The petition asks the court to order Israel's Central Elections Committee to re-examine the results at all polling stations. The court is to study the petition Sunday.

Hamas Offers Bibi a Ceasefire, if...

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

The military wing of the Islamic Hamas movement has offered a conditional ceasefire to Israel's newly installed right-wing government. The offer was made two days after Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister.

The statement issued Thursday by the "Isseldin al-Qassam Brigades" and distributed in Jerusalem offers to suspend what it terms "military actions" against Israelis. The military wing of Hamas was behind the suicide bus bombings earlier this year that swayed many Israelis to vote for hardliner Netanyahu.

The statement says it will stop attacks if Israel halts all actions against its members, releases Hamas prisoners and lifts the four-month-old closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Following the suicide bombings, Israel imposed the strictest closure ever on the Palestinian territories, a move which has devastated the Palestinian economy.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been meeting with top advisors to draw up the new government's policies towards the Palestinians. High on the agenda is the Israeli troop redeployment from Hebron in the West Bank. Under the peace agreement, Israel was to have withdrawn from most of the city in March, but former Prime Minister Shimon Peres delayed the redeployment after the Hamas bombings, leaving the decision to Netanyahu's government.

Palestinian leaders have said the Hebron issue will be the first test of Netanyahu's promise to pursue peace.

Arab Summit Starts Saturday in Cairo

By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)

Arab leaders are meeting in Cairo this weekend to map out their strategy on the peace process after the shift of Israel's new government to a more hardline attitude. The summit will also deal with reconciliation within the Arab community, which has been plagued by quarrels about a variety of issues. Officials say the Arab leaders want to reaffirm their commitment to the Middle East peace process. That is, if it continues to be based on the principle of land-for-peace.

Egyptian government spokesman Nabil Osman says the Arab leaders will use the summit to send a strong message to Israel. "This summit has a main target and a main thrust, and that's to consolidate the peace process and make the Arab point of view very clear, make it crystal clear to all partners."

But Egyptian political analyst Mohamed Sayed Sayed says the summit leaders will have to put aside their own differences to forge a united stand on the peace process.

Differences are apparent even within the context of the peace process. Egypt has had what is called a "cold peace" with Israel since 1979. Barely two years old, Jordan's peace with Israel appears much warmer.

Syria wants to tighten the economic boycott against Israel's new hardline government. But Oman and Qatar in the Gulf are not waiting for a comprehensive peace to explore closer trade ties with Israel. Neither are Tunisia or Morocco.

Syrian-Iranian Military Pact May be in Works

By Andre de Nesnera (VOA-London)

A pan-Arab newspaper based in london -- "al-Hayat" -- is reporting Thursday a military agreement between Iran and Syria. The report quotes diplomatic sources in Damascus as saying Iran has offered Syria a military agreement similar to the one signed between Turkey and Israel.

Kamran Karadaghi is al-Hayat's senior foreign affairs correspondent. He says it is unclear what kind of accord Iran and Syria have reached -- whether it is a broad military agreement or a detailed military pact which would involve, for example, joint training and maneuvers.

Karadaghi says what is clear, is both countries believe they are threatened by the Turkish-Israeli military pact. Karadaghi says there is always the possibility there is no pact and the idea was simply leaked to the press to alarm neighboring countries. But if indeed there is such an agreement between Tehran and Damascus, Karadaghi says this will create a completely new situation in the region.

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