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Palestinian: U.S. Destroying Talks

March 15, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A top Palestinian negotiator accused the United States on Sunday of trying to destroy the Mideast peace process.

``The American peace team does not take the Palestinian-Israeli crisis seriously,″ Hassan Asfour said. ``This team has totally adopted the Israeli position.″

Asfour, one of the Palestinians who negotiated the original Israel-Palestinian peace accords in Oslo, Norway, charged that the Americans don’t support the accords because they weren’t involved in their creation.

``The team is trying to torpedo the Oslo accords″ he told The Associated Press. ``They want to make a new peace agreement.″

The United States has been working to revive the deadlocked peace process with an initiative that calls on Israel to withdraw from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which currently has full or partial control over 27 percent of the West Bank, has rejected the proposed figure as insufficient.

Asfour said the Palestinian Authority trusts the European Union more than the United States when it comes to Mideast peace. ``The Europeans are working on ideas that are in synch with Oslo and their ideas can save the peace process,″ he said.

Asfour had particularly harsh words for special U.S. mediator Dennis Ross, whom he accused of having ``a personal vendetta″ against the Oslo accords.

British Foreign Minister Robin Cook is visiting the region this week on behalf of the EU, and Palestinian officials said he would discuss a European initiative with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

``We would like to see a joint European-American proposal to push the peace process forward,″ Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said.

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