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The BBC's Paul Adams in Jerusalem
"The two sides remain far apart"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Washington
"It is not clear if there is more willingness to explain more detail"
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Daniel Seaman, Israeli Government press office
"We are very concerned about the Palestinian attitude"
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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 08:07 GMT
Barak casts doubt on peace deadline
police at scene of Netanya blast
The Netanya car bombing injured at least 30 people
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, has said he does not think President Bill Clinton can broker a peace agreement before his presidential term ends on 20 January.

Mr Barak was speaking as the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat headed for Washington for talks with Mr Clinton about the American plan to end the Middle East conflict.

"I don't believe it's reasonable that we will be able to bring about an agreement to be signed in the next two weeks or in the next three weeks," Mr Barak told Israeli Army Radio.

President Clinton
President Clinton: Running out of time

But Mr Barak said he would consider sending representatives to Washington if there was a halt to "terrorism" and a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian security co-operation.

At least 30 people were injured on Monday in a car bomb blast in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya, about 30km north of Tel Aviv.

And a 52-year-old Palestinian farmer was reported killed by Israeli troops on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip. The troops are said to have opened fire after an explosion at the nearby Jewish settlement of Dugit.

The Israeli army said a soldier was wounded in the explosion, and another was hurt in a bomb blast at the settlement of Neve Dekalim, also in the Gaza Strip.

Public pressure

Public opinion among both Israelis and Palestinians has been inflamed by the upsurge in violence in the New Year.

Any new agreement would have to overcome a mountain of scepticism.

Reported American proposals
Israel to concede sovereignty over much of East Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque
Palestinians give up the right of return for Palestinian refugees
Palestinian state on 95% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip

Mr Barak, trailing in the opinion polls, is running for re-election as prime minister on 6 February.

A Palestinian official said Mr Arafat had set off for Washington after Mr Clinton gave him the clarifications he was seeking on the US peace proposals. They are due to meet at 1400 (1900 GMT) on Tuesday, according to Palestinian officials.

Mr Clinton set out "parameters", or terms which would form the basis for further peace negotiations, last week.

The proposals have not been put in writing, but are said to include a Palestinian state on 95% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, and Israeli concessions on east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Mr Barak has said he will not sign any accord giving the Palestinians complete sovereignty over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to Muslims, but also sits on top of Judaism's holiest site.

A key sticking point is the Palestinians' claim to a right of return for nearly four million Palestinian refugees and their families.

'Decisive visit'

A spokesman for Mr Arafat called the Washington talks "a decisive visit at which the future of the peace process will be determined".

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem, Jon Leyne, says Mr Arafat's visit suggests he may be close to accepting, or may already have accepted, Mr Clinton's proposals in principle.

The Israelis have accepted the parameters with reservations.

Netanya bombing

A car bomb blast in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya on Monday injured at least 30 people and smashed shop windows in a main street as people were returning home from work.

"People are hysterical, people are crying, there is black smoke everywhere," a witness told Israeli radio.

Deputy Police Chief Danny Ronen remarked that given the timing of the blast it was a miracle that no-one had been killed.

Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo condemned the attack.

At least 350 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed since the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation began three months ago.

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See also:

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Barak: It's me or war
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