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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Peres 'resumes talks with Palestinians'
Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat
Peres says he is not yet ready to meet Arafat again
Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has said he has resumed contacts with senior Palestinian officials, but does not yet plan to talk with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.


There are only initial feelers. There are still no details, it's only the beginning

Shimon Peres
Mr Peres said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had not put any limits on the discussions, despite the Israeli leader's insistence that there are no peace talks until Palestinians renounce violence.

The Palestinians have been identified as the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmed Qurei, and the chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

However Mr Erekat denied that he and Mr Qurei had been holding talks with Mr Peres, although he said contacts over arrests and humanitarian issues did take place on a daily basis.

Discussions

Mr Peres said the talks "have not really become serious yet. There are only initial feelers. Therefore, I am cautious about going into details. There are still no details, it's only the beginning".


It is incorrect to say that these contacts are tantamount to negotiations

Saeb Erakat
"What is missing at this point is reciprocal good will," he said.

But Mr Erekat said it was "completely not true" that such talks were under way.

"Contacts are held to discuss the arrest of persons, or to ask Israel to intervene on an issue that has to do with closures or siege and transportation of medicines or water," he said.

"There are ongoing contacts in this respect. But it is incorrect to say that these contacts are tantamount to negotiations."

Diplomacy

Mr Peres' announcement comes amid intense diplomatic activity.

This week, both Mr Sharon and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal held talks with US President George W Bush.

Mr Bush is expected to outline his vision for a regional peace process in a speech early next week.

And on Thursday, Mr Arafat chaired the first meeting of a new, streamlined cabinet, which he appointed at the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Israelis say that they found a large bomb today in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, and exploded it safely. They say that the bomb was meant to be planted in Israel.


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