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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Oct. 14, 1996 V4, #186
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Peace Talks In Taba are Postponed

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The next round of the emergency Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has been postponed until Tuesday at the request of the US mediator.

Mediator Dennis Ross says Israeli and Palestinian officials have been talking outside the framework of the formal negotiations, and he wants such contacts to continue for another day. He says that will create what he calls a "stronger basis" for the formal negotiations to make progress.

The talks have been stalled over Israel's insistence on changes in the existing plan for the deployment of the Palestinian police in Hebron, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from most of the city.

The negotiations, arranged at the Washington summit early this month, were to have resumed today at the Egyptian resort of Taba and then to move to the adjacent Israeli town of Eilat.

Palestinian officials say there has been no progress so far, and that they will never accept changes in the existing agreement. Israel says it will implement the existing accord, but only when it is satisfied with the security arrangements. Ross, the mediator, says the two sides need to better understand each other's positions.

Is it a Wonderful Day in Israel's Neighborhood?

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's four-month-old government is finding itself under increasing criticism from its peace partners -- Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians -- even as it pursues US-sponsored talks aimed, in part, at dispelling the notion that the new Israeli government is not interested in pursuing peace. The government is not particularly concerned about the deterioration in its relations with its Arab partners because it believes they will soon see that their impressions are wrong.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to attend the recent Washington summit, and during the past week one Egyptian newspaper depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a Nazi and another has called for his murder.

Jordan's King Hussein has made some uncharacteristically pessimistic comments, saying he is deeply disappointed in Netanyahu and his policies. And the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, has predicted the current US-sponsored talks will fail unless Israel changes its positions, something he says he does not expect. He says uncontrollable violence could result.

For many Israeli and foreign analysts, that adds up to a crisis in Israel's fledgling relations with its Arab neighbors. He says the new government was forced to make some policy changes because it was not possible to pursue peace while Israelis felt it was endangering them. He says he understands how the changes created tension and pessimism among Palestinians, and therefore among Egyptians and Jordanians, for whom continuing progress on the Palestinian track is important.

New Law Bans Female Circumcision

By Carolyn Weaver (VOA-Washington)

In a move that received no press attention until a New York Times report Saturday, Congress has outlawed the custom of female genital cutting practiced by immigrants from a number of countries in Africa and Asia. The law also requires US representatives to the World Bank and other international financial agencies to oppose loans to countries that do not have active educational programs to stamp out the practice -- which affects tens of millions of girls and women worldwide.

The new law -- part of a spending bill passed two weeks ago [Sept. 30] -- bans genital cutting of girls under the age of 18 in the United States. It also requires American officials to inform new immigrants that parents who arrange for the cutting of their daughters could be sent to prison for five years. American health officials estimate that about 150,000 girls and women in the United States could be at risk or already have been cut.

Female genital cutting, a procedure performed to stifle sexual desire, is practiced in 28 countries in Africa and Asia, including Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Indonesia. It involves the removal of the clitoris and other external female genitalia, and sometimes infibulation, the sewing together of the vaginal opening. Health experts say the aftermath is often lifelong pain, infections and inability to experience sexual pleasure.

Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada led the effort to pass the measure in the Senate. He said it cannot be compared with male circumcision, the removal of a male baby's foreskin.

"Painful, but the little kid is well in a day or two. With female circumcision, what they do is so horrible it's almost beyond description. It has not the effect of a day or two but a lifetime of misery and pain, and leads many times, about 15 percent people have very, very severe problems, and over 10 percent die."

The measure to make international loans contingent on action against genital cutting takes effect in one year.

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