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Israel, Palestinians to hold more talks

Israel, Palestinians to hold more talks

Israel and the Palestinians agreed to resume talks on Tuesday on U.S. President Bill Clinton's peace parameters after an emotion-charged day of violence in the Gaza Strip.

"The negotiators will meet tomorrow (Tuesday) to continue discussions started by the sides several days ago," said senior Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Korei, who is also known as Abu Ala.

"The Palestinian side expects to receive answers and clarifications as well as maps from the Israelis to questions and reservations discussed the other night and submitted to Clinton regarding Clinton's parameters," he said.

Israeli officials confirmed the talks would be held.

Clinton, who hands over to President-elect George W. Bush on Saturday, proposed last month five "parameters" for a peace agreement covering the key issues, but also requiring radical compromises that neither side has been ready to accept.

The blueprint addresses issues at the heart of the 52-year-old Palestinian conflict such as the future of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees.

In the Gaza Strip, Jewish settlers set fire to Palestinian homes, fields and greenhouses on Monday in retaliation for the killing of fellow settler Roni Tsalach, 32, who had been missing since Sunday.

Israeli police said they arrested two settlers on suspicion of arson during the rampage, in an area under Israeli security control.

Earlier in the day Israel said it had called off a negotiating session that had been scheduled for Monday, after Tsalach was found shot dead.

In further violence, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian during a confrontation with rock throwers on Monday, Palestinian witnesses and hospital sources said.

Top-level talks were last held on Saturday, when Palestinian President Yasser Arafat met former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS PEACE TALKS MUST CONTINUEAt least 309 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 44 other Israelis have been killed in the Palestinians' uprising for independence, the bloodiest violence between the sides in years.

"The only way out, in addition to the necessary security steps, is a political agreement (with the Palestinians)," Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel's chief negotiator, told Channel One television. "We must continue along this path."

But time for any type of deal was fast running out ahead of U.S. Inauguration Day and Israel's prime ministerial election on February 6.

Opinion polls suggest right-winger Ariel Sharon, 72, will trounce Barak, 58, in the Israeli vote. Sharon's opponents say his election would further complicate the peace effort, although the Palestinians are not publicly taking sides.

Barak reiterated on Monday he had no intention of pulling out of the race, which he can legally do up to four days before the election, in favour of Peres, 77, whom opinion polls suggest can beat Sharon.

"From experience, I don't believe in opinion polls and I think that Shimon Peres, from his own experience, doesn't believe in them," Barak, in broadcast remarks, told supporters who chuckled at his reference to Peres' past electoral defeats.

Although twice prime minister, once in a power-sharing deal in the 1980s and the other time as successor to assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s, Peres never won a national election outright in five tries from 1977 to 1996.


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