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One-on-one meeting set for Sharon, Abbas


JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will hold a long-delayed one-on-one meeting June 21, the two sides said yesterday.

The announcement came as a senior Palestinian official revealed that Abbas underwent a heart procedure in Jordan yesterday.

Abbas, 69, was taken to a hospital in Amman after complaining of fatigue, said Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a top aide. He underwent angioplasty to clear out clogged coronary arteries.

The procedure was successful, Abdel Rahim said; Abbas is expected back in the West Bank today, as planned, after a lengthy trip abroad.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not met since a Feb. 8 summit in Egypt, where they declared a cease-fire that has sharply reduced violence.

That landmark meeting, held under the auspices of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II, raised hopes that the Israelis and Palestinians would soon embark on negotiations aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace accord.

Instead, each side has signaled dissatisfaction with the pace and scope of the other's conciliatory measures, and they have traded accusations of failure to live up to promises made at the February gathering.

Sharon and his top lieutenants have repeatedly accused Abbas of failing to disarm Palestinian militant groups. The Palestinians, in turn, have complained bitterly about Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements, particularly a plan that appears aimed at linking the West Bank's largest settlement, Maale Adumim, with Jerusalem.

Israel also promised at the February summit to turn over five towns and cities to Palestinian security control. But so far only two, Jericho and Tulkarm, have been handed over. No date has been set by Israel for turning over the others: Kalkilya, Ramallah and Bethlehem.

The announcement of the planned Sharon-Abbas meeting came on the eve of Israel's expected release of 400 Palestinian prisoners, as promised at the February summit. But Palestinians have complained that the gesture is insufficient, saying more of the 8,000 prisoners in Israeli jails should be freed.

In the months since they last met, Sharon and Abbas have traveled separately to the United States for talks with President Bush, each seeking to make the case that the bulk of blame for the lack of swift progress lay with the other side.

After Abbas was elected in January to succeed the late Yasser Arafat, both Israeli and Palestinian officials said again and again that a private meeting between the two leaders was imminent. But months dragged by with no date being set.

Neither side appeared to have more than modest ambitions for the coming meeting. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said a principal goal would be to "continue the calm" and secure Israeli pledges to implement the understandings reached at the Egypt summit.

A senior Israeli official, who requested anonymity, said Sharon would reiterate demands that Abbas act decisively against armed factions.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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