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Arafat seeks Arab summit, international pressure to force Israeli pullback

CAIRO, EGYPT — CAIRO, Egypt -- In an attempt to press Israel to set a date for the withdrawal of its troops from most of the West Bank, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called yesterday for an Arab summit meeting and asked for increased international support.

In a statement issued by the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee after two days of talks, Mr. Arafat and senior advisers described the peace talks with Israel as stuck in a vicious circle and increasingly difficult to continue.

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But they did not call for an end to the talks and reaffirmed their commitment to the peace accord signed with Israel in Washington in 1993.

"The committee believes it is important to discuss the consequences and dangers of a breakdown in the peace process by holding an Arab meeting at the highest level in the framework of the Arab League as soon as possible," the statement said.

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The PLO leaders said they would send envoys to Arab countries, the United States, Russia, Europe, China, Japan and elsewhere in an attempt to push Israel to redeploy its troops and permit the holding of Palestinian elections.

The plan to broaden the negotiating process met with a muted response from Egyptian officials.

"As for the regionalization or internationalization of the process, this is a Palestinian point of view that has been expressed, but there is still some time to go before doing so," Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said.

Because of internal opposition to the peace agreement, the meeting of the 18-member executive committee drew only nine members. The governing body of the PLO, it met every two weeks in Tunis, Tunisia, when Mr. Arafat was based there.

But its role has been diminished since Mr. Arafat moved to Gaza, and six members have resigned or suspended their membership in opposition to Mr. Arafat's agreement with Israel. The committee last met in November, and will convene again in Tunis next month.

Israeli officials say they cannot redeploy their forces until Mr. Arafat cracks down on Islamic militant groups that have carried out terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Senior Palestinian leaders said Mr. Arafat was angry about "humiliating demands" made by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in a meeting with Mr. Arafat last week.

The officials said Mr. Rabin had insisted that the Palestinian leadership prove it could ensure the security of Israelis before raising further demands for expanded self-rule.

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Also yesterday, the Associated Press said Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ended their two-day, 11th round of talks at a Cairo hotel, with both sides acknowledging that an agreement on elections was far off.

On Tuesday, both sides had said they expected agreement soon.

Negotiations are to resume in Cairo in two weeks.


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