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Monday, October 19, 1998 Published at 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK

World: Middle East

More time for Mideast peace talks

The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, discusses matters with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

The Middle East peace summit in Maryland is to continue into an unscheduled fifth day amid reports of serious difficulties.

Richard Haass, director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institute, analyses the talks
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have shown little sign of nearing agreement.

The Israeli delegation has been demanding cast iron security guarantees before agreeing to return any more land to the Palestinians.

US President Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for a second consecutive day, and White House officials say agreement is still possible.

[ image:  ]
But the BBC's Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur says serious differences still divide the two sides.

He says the Israelis are not satisfied by security guarantees the Palestinians are offering them in return for Israel withdrawing from another 13% of the West Bank.

Israel's hawkish new foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, is also taking part in the negotiations for the first time.

The Palestinians are insisting Israel's 13% withdrawal be followed by another pull back before any permanent settlement. They point out the withdrawal was agreed to by Israel under the Oslo peace process.

The Palestinian side is also pressing for the release of several thousand Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Leaders 'cannot afford failure', says Clinton

[ image: Back on the West Bank there has been intermittent violence]
Back on the West Bank there has been intermittent violence
Our correspondent says Binyamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat have not actually had direct talks for two days, and reports suggest their last encounter was acrimonious.

But the Americans know that no agreement can come unless the two leaders deem it to be in their own best interests.

President Clinton continues to tell both men that they cannot afford to let this summit end in failure.

White House spokesman James Rubin: "We have the time"
The detailed negotiating has been taking place in four committees, the most important of which is the one dealing with the security issue.

The others are examining an airport for Gaza, a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank and other economic problems.

The Americans are trying to define a package of security measures to be taken by the Palestinians at the same time as the Israeli withdrawal.

CIA chiefs have also been talking with both sides on security.

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