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Report: Sharon Willing to Negotiate

September 4, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is willing to meet a senior Palestinian official and renew negotiations, according to an interview published Wednesday.

Sharon told Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, he received a telephone call from a senior Palestinian official who suggested the sides renew talks.

``I expressed my agreement to meet a senior Palestinian official,″ Sharon said in what would represent a sharp change in his policy not to hold talks until nearly two years of fighting ends.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo denied any talks would be held with Israeli officials, particularly Sharon.

``The position of the Palestinian Authority is clear on this issue. We don’t have problems meeting with the Israelis, but at the same time the Israelis have to stop their crimes against the Palestinian people,″ Abed Rabbo said.

Parts of the interview with Sharon were published Wednesday. The full text will be printed Friday.

Sharon did not say who the Palestinian official was, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, in an interview with Israeli radio, also refused to comment.

Sharon said the Palestinians turned to him because they realize their uprising is failing.

``Their hope that we would break has been proven false. Israeli society has withstood terrible tests of terror and didn’t break. Contrary to this, in Palestinian society there are cracks due to the understanding that they will not succeed in breaking us,″ Sharon told Yediot Ahronot.

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