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US Urged To Publicize Mideast Plan

April 6, 1998

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A top Palestinian negotiator criticized the United States on Sunday for not making public the details of its proposal aimed at breaking the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet that an explosion last week at a Hamas bomb factory in Palestinian-controlled Ramallah showed that Palestinians were not doing enough to fight terrorism.

The factory’s existence ``right under the nose of the Palestinian Authority″ proved that ``there exists a widespread Hamas terrorist infrastructure in its territory, against which the Palestinian Authority is not acting systematically,″ Netanyahu said in Jerusalem on Sunday, according to a statement.

In Cairo, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Clinton administration’s reluctance to publicize the initiative encourages Netanyahu to continue to ignore its agreements with the Palestinians.

``We believe that not declaring the American initiative in public is in Netanyahu’s interests so that he will not implement the signed agreements,″ Erekat told reporters after meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa.

Moussa also urged the United States to make the proposal public because ``the Israeli policy of procrastination should be exposed.″

It has been widely reported that the United States is trying to persuade Israel to withdraw from another 13.1 percent of the West Bank in exchange for security steps from the Palestinians, as a way to restart the stalled peace talks.

U.S. officials have never made public the exact figures for any recommended withdrawal because Israel has argued that doing so would amount to pressure on the Jewish state. Israel has so far offered to withdraw from 9 percent of the land.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Sunday that Washington was only offering ideas.

``We do not have a plan,″ she said in Tobago. ``There have been people who think there is some kind of plan akin to some that have been presented previously. We have a set of ideas, a road map about how to narrow the gap between the parties.″

In response to a letter from six U.S. senators who expressed the same fear as Israel, Albright assured members of Congress on Friday that the administration would not reveal the proposal.

Erakat, however, said that would only lead Netanyahu to ``keep playing his games.″

Netanyahu’s government had agreed to a three-step withdrawal in the West Bank, but only one such pullback has occurred because Israel has demanded greater security steps by Palestinians.

Also Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel did not kill Hamas’ chief bombmaker, whose body was found in the wreckage of the Ramallah explosion last week. Hamas has blamed Israel and threatened revenge attacks.

Palestinian pathologist Jalal Jabri presented his report to Justice Minister Freij Abu Medein on Sunday, but refused to disclose its contents.

There were signs of growing tensions, meanwhile, between Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority and the militant Hamas over the explosion.

In Gaza, Palestinian intelligence head Amin Hindi issued a blunt statement declaring that the Palestinian Authority was the only party responsible for investigating Sharif’s death and criticizing anyone who was not providing information to Palestinian investigators.

Hamas has said it is conducting its own investigation.

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