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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke in Jerusalem
"High level talks are continuing in Egypt"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Adams reports
"Corruption is endemic among Mr Arafat's senior officials"
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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 11:11 GMT
Palestinians claim TV chief's murder
Mekki and Arafat
Hisham Mekki was gunned down on Wednesday
A Palestinian group has said it was responsible for killing the head of Palestinian state television in the Gaza Strip, accusing him of corruption.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which has in the past claimed responsibility for attacks on Israeli targets, issued a statement saying its "anti-corruption" unit had gunned down Hisham Mekki while he sipped tea in a Gaza restaurant.

It said it killed Mr Mekki because Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had failed to punish corrupt officials.


One of our units has executed the ruling of the people against ... Hisham Mekki

Statement
Witnesses said two gunmen wearing masks entered the hotel's lobby restaurant and fired at Mr Mekki, 54, at close range with pistols fitted with silencers.

Mr Mekki was an associate, but not a close aide, of Mr Arafat.

The Palestinian leadership had earlier blamed the murder on "collaborators" with Israel.

The Israeli army denied any responsibility.

"The Israeli army and the Israeli security services had no involvement with this event," a statement issued by the army said.

Peace talks

Peace talks continued with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat meeting Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami in Cairo - but there were no signs of significant progress.

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Cairo said merely that "they agreed they should continue the negotiations", adding that no date for further talks had been announced.

Egyptian television quoted an unidentified Palestinian official as saying no progress had been made during the talks.

The meeting had been arranged at the last minute during talks between Mr Ben Ami and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Hopes are dwindling that the two sides will sign up to US peace proposals before President Clinton leaves office on 20 January.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Middle East
Mid-East talks restart
16 Jan 01 | Middle East
Death of Palestinian 'collaborator'
13 Jan 01 | Middle East
Palestinians execute informers
11 Jan 01 | Middle East
Likud seeks peace on its terms
31 Dec 00 | Middle East
Barak: It's me or war
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