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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK

World: Middle East

Barak confirms Wye timetable

Mr Barak has failed to resolve the third part of the Wye accord

Israel will implement long-awaited handovers of land to Palestinians in three weeks time, Prime Minister Ehud Barak confirmed on Friday.

Middle East
The announcement, made in a TV interview marking his first month in the job, means Palestinians could gain control of more West Bank land by early October, several weeks after initial implementation goes ahead.

But the Israeli leader has still not resolved a dispute over the final third phase of the Wye agreement's land-for-security handover, which Mr Barak has sought to postpone by several months.

On track

Mr Barak told Israel Television that he had agreed in meetings last month with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to put the stalled agreement back into action starting in September.

[ image: Mr Barak's delay of certain implementations infuriated Palestinians]
Mr Barak's delay of certain implementations infuriated Palestinians
"We will implement Wye. Wye has a timetable. I said a month ago that in seven weeks - in other words three weeks from today - we will begin counting the days for implementation of Wye. Mubarak and I agreed to this then, Mubarak and Arafat agreed to it," he said.

The US-brokered Wye accord called for Israel to cede 13% of the West Bank in three phases over 12 weeks in exchange for Palestinian security moves and other measures.

Mr Barak, who took office last month pledging to breathe new life into a peace process that stalled under his right-wing predecessor Binyamin Netanyahu, has proposed folding the last stage of the land handover into talks on a permanent peace deal.

But Palestinians have rejected that plan, calling on Barak to implement the Wye deal - something he has promised to do but without saying how quickly he would act if they turn down his proposal.

Peace deal

The accord calls for Israel to hand over 5% of the land in the second phase and 6% in the third phase.

Aides have said Mr Barak asked Mr Arafat to agree to put back the third redeployment to February.

Mr Barak has said the current Wye timetable could harm chances of achieving a final peace treaty because the land handover would isolate several Jewish settlements and lead to possible friction in the West Bank.

A timetable similar to the one Mr Barak described in the interview appeared in the Israeli press last week but Palestinian officials said it had not been presented to them.

"We have not been informed of this timetable and we do not accept it," top Palestinian negotiator Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.

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