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Wednesday, December 16, 1998 Published at 18:35 GMT

World: Middle East

Israel cancels troop pull out

Mr Netanyahu expects more guarantees from the Palestinians

The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has confirmed that his government will not go ahead with a planned troop withdrawal from parts of the occupied West Bank.

Middle East
The withdrawal, which was due to take place on Friday, were agreed under the Wye River peace accord with the Palestinians, but Mr Netanyahu has since demanded a further series of conditions from the Palestinians before implementing it.

"The prime minister [says] that he cannot at this stage report to the government that the Palestinians have carried out their part and that we will be able to implement the withdrawal on the 18th of the month," an Israeli cabinet statement said.

Paul Adams: Several issues are still outstanding
The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, accused Israel of a dangerous violation of the Wye peace accord.

But a senior aide, Nabil Sha'ath, said that, contradictory to an earlier statement by a Palestinian spokesman the Palestinian Authority would continue to implement the accord, even if Israel did not.

Clinton's visit fails

The Israeli cabinet session was called a day after US President Bill Clinton ended a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories which failed to achieve its aim of getting the Wye accord back on track.

[ image: Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat - stalemate not resolved]
Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat - stalemate not resolved
Mr Netanyahu welcomed a vote taken by the Palestinian leadership in Clinton's presence on Monday confirming the cancellation of anti-Israel clauses in the Palestinian charter - one of Israel's top conditions for pursuing the land-for-peace process.

But he said this was insufficient and demanded the Palestinians meet a long list of other conditions, ranging from renouncing any unilateral declaration of independence to rounding up suspected terrorists and collecting illegal weapons in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinians countered that they had been fulfilling their security obligations under the Wye accord, and accused Mr Netanyahu of suspending the accord out of fear that right-wing hardliners opposed to the agreement will topple his government in a parliamentary vote of confidence scheduled for Monday.

"This is [Mr] Netanyahu's last step before declaring that he is withdrawing completely from the peace process," Mr Asfour said.

"He should have the political courage to declare the real reason for his action, which is his fear of being toppled and not Palestinian violations," he said.

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