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Palestinians Say Talks Could End

August 3, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israel and Palestinian negotiators held a round of talks Monday night that the Palestinians said would be the last if no progress was made toward an overdue West Bank troop withdrawal.

Ahmed Tibi, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, said that if the Israelis did not bring new ideas, ``this kind of meeting cannot continue.″

``We are waiting to see a change in the attitude of the Israelis,″ Tibi said. ``If not, this means (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has said no to the last chance to revive the peace process.″

Senior negotiators have been meeting for the past two weeks, after months without direct talks, in an effort to come to an agreement on a West Bank troop withdrawal. Talks resumed Monday night in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have complained that no progress has been made, and that Israel has continued to resist an American proposal for a 13 percent withdrawal.

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said on the Voice of Palestine radio station that if Monday’s meeting failed to produce results, ``We will go to the United States and tell (Secretary of State Madeleine) Mrs. Albright that we have not only gone the extra mile, but 200 miles in our attempt to put the peace process back on track.″

Netanyahu, in turn, warned the Palestinians that ultimatums would lead nowhere.

``The Palestinians would be ill-advised to create an artificial crisis,″ he said, adding that the talks so far had been businesslike and constructive, and that the Israelis had been showing much goodwill.

``My advice to all parties is to engage in negotiations constructively in order to bring to their conclusion ... and I think this is possible,″ he said.

Netanyahu said the Israelis were considering releasing 100 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails as a goodwill gesture.

In the Gaza Strip, about 100 relatives of prisoners marched Monday, chanting ``No peace without the release of our sons.″ A small delegation later met with Arafat.

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