Newsletter : 7fax0304.txt
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>JN March 4, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 37
Swiss Ready to Probe Financial Ties to Nazi Germany
Eight historians and a lawyer empowered to lift Swiss bank
secrecy laws will meet this week to launch a probe of neutral
Switzerland's controversial financial ties to Nazi Germany. The
five Swiss and four foreign experts will meet in Berne from March
5 to 8 after being picked by the Swiss government to answer a hail
of international criticism that Switzerland profited from World War
II. The meeting will take place amid a debate among the Swiss about
their past and over whether the government should pay into a
Holocaust memorial fund.
Arafat and Clinton Focus on Israel Housing Plan
By David Borgida (VOA-White House)
The United States and the Palestinian Authority are forming a joint
commission to maintain regular contact on a variety of issues. The
announcement came as Yasir Arafat completed a day of talks with
President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright --
talks that focused on the controversial Israeli plan to build new
housing in east Jerusalem.
The joint commission would be similar to those the United States
has established with other nations, including Russia. State
Department spokesman Nick Burns made the announcement following
talks between Arafat and Albright. "I think the fact that she and
Chairman Arafat have decided to do this together is a fairly strong
demonstration of our commitment."
Earlier, Arafat heard some more good news, a reaffirmation from
Clinton at the White House that the Israeli plan to build new
housing in east Jerusalem undermines the peace process. "I would
prefer the decision not have been made, because I don't think it
builds confidence, I think it builds mistrust."
But the president and other top US officials refrained from public
comment on whether the administration would ask Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his decision. Burns insisted
the best chance for the US mediation role to succeed is through
private diplomacy. Arafat meets today with members of Congress.
German Minister Visits Middle East
By Kyle King (VOA-Bonn)
German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel begins a trip to the Middle
East today, in what analysts call another sign of Germany's
increasing role in international affairs.
The foreign minister's first stop will be Jordan. In addition to
Middle East peace, his talks with King Hussein and other officials
are expected to focus on water rights, a key issue in relations
between Israel and Jordan.
Kinkel, who last visited the region one year ago, travels to Gaza
Thursday for talks with Yasir Arafat. Friday, Kinkel is expected in
Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli President Ezar Weizman and Foreign
Minister David Levy.
German Foreign Ministry officials say Kinkel will use his trip to
stress Germany's commitment to the Middle East peace process.
Despite the difficult history between Germany and Israel, officials
say Germany has become Israel's second most important foreign
partner after the United States.
Officials say they do not want their efforts in the region be
in competition with other influential players such as the United
States. However, most analysts agree, Germany's influence in the
region, and around the world has grown since unification in 1990.
Germany is the largest European Union aid donor to the region.
It says its task now is to encourage compromise and help strengthen
the foundations of peace.
Palestinians Strike as Arafat Visits Washington
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel continued to implement its policy on Jerusalem Monday, as
Palestinians held a general strike to protest the policy, and the
Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, met with President Clinton to
seek his support in getting it changed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a Palestinian
neighborhood in east Jerusalem, where the government plans
infrastructure improvements designed to placate Palestinian
anger over plans for a new Jewish neighborhood not far away.
Palestinians reject the Israeli effort, and say Israel should
not be doing anything in east Jerusalem until its future is
determined in the next round of peace talks.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a
future Palestinian state. But Israel says it will never give up
any of the city, which Israeli law defines as including many
Palestinian villages and a considerable amount of undeveloped
land, including the hill slated for the new Jewish neighborhood
approved last week.
Monday's strike was called by the elected Palestinian council and
affected schools, government offices and public transportation,
as well as stores. It was generally effective throughout the
West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem, in contrast to some other
strike calls which have often been virtually ignored.
But there were indications in some areas that the Palestinian
police enforced the strike, much as militant groups did during
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