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Israelis, Palestinians Resume Talks

January 11, 2001

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel and the Palestinians resumed high-level peace talks Thursday, raising hopes of reaching some king of deal before U.S. President Bill Clinton leaves office in a little over a week.

Israel’s team, led by Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, arrived at Gaza checkpoint’s Erez checkpoint just before midnight, meeting a Palestinian team waiting there.

The Israelis immediately entered talks with senior Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erekat, Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan and legislative council speaker Ahmed Qureia, who had boycotted talks for months.

Resumption of talks _ three weeks after the last high-level contacts, in Washington _ followed a series of security meetings that led Thursday to the easing of Israel’s blockade on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Danny Yatom, told Israel television that both sides are interested in checking whether they can ``agree on some kind of wording″ before Clinton’s term ends Jan. 20.

Any such agreement could be used to keep the peace process going after Clinton leaves office, Yatom said.

Nabil Aburdeneh, an aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said the next 72 hours ``could be decisive, and we hope these efforts will lead to something.″

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