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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 02:20 GMT 03:20 UK
Israel cancels Palestinian talks
Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat
Peres has said he is not yet ready to meet Arafat
Israel has cancelled high-level talks with Palestinian officials saying it needs more time to prepare.

The Saturday evening talks - between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian cabinet ministers - were to focus on political, economic and security issues, said Palestinian delegation member Saeb Erekat.


The meeting will take place when the necessary preparations have been made to be sure of its success

Yoram Dori, Israeli spokesman
But correspondents say the real reason for the postponement was opposition from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to any discussions of a non-humanitarian nature with the Palestinians.

Israeli troops say they captured a Palestinian man who was on his way to carry out a suicide attack in Israel.

Earlier, the army said it had intercepted a Palestinian vehicle loaded with explosives near the town of Qalqilya in the West Bank. The occupants escaped the Israeli fire.

'Real reason'

Israel has given no indication when, or if, the talks will be held. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said more time was needed.

"The meeting will take place when the necessary preparations have been made to be sure of its success," Yoram Dori told AFP news agency.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and American President Bush at White House press briefing
Sharon is said to oppose all but humanitarian contacts

An unnamed Israeli source, however, spoke of an indefinite suspension.

"We need to be clear the [Palestinian] Authority is making reforms and that we are not giving additional incentive to [Palestinian leader] Yasser Arafat to do nothing," the source said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Earlier this week, Mr Peres resumed contacts with senior Palestinian officials, meeting the newly-appointed finance and interior ministers in Yasser Arafat's cabinet.

Arafat in the cold

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

But correspondents say Mr Sharon's opposition led to the latest round being cancelled.

For his part, the besieged Palestinian leader has been trying to persuade the United States that he is reforming the Palestinian Authority - and the US should resume contacts with him.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell said he had no such plans.

"I am not now dealing with Chairman Arafat. We are waiting for new leaders to emerge or a new leadership to be designated that we can work with," Mr Powell told Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera.

Siege continues

Mr Powell was responding to a written plea from Mr Arafat for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Israel controls seven of the eight major Palestinian-populated centres.

On Saturday, the army said it had foiled possible attacks from the West Bank.

A military spokesman said a suspected suicide bomber, who wore a belt full of explosives, was captured near the town of Jenin after he opened fire at a patrol.

Soldiers said they also carried out a controlled explosion of a vehicle containing four bombs connected to gas canisters.

The car was intercepted on a road near Qalqilya. Its passengers fled after troops fired warning shots, the army said.


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