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Monday, August 16, 1999 Published at 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK

World: Middle East

Deadlock in pull-back talks

(Left to right) Sher, Erekat and Dahlan at the start of inconclusive talks

After two days of talks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have failed to resolve their differences over the timetable for further Israeli military withdrawals from the occupied West Bank.

On Saturday, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak said preparations would start next month for a new phased pullback, beginning in October.

Middle East
Gaza security chief Muhammad Dahlan complained that the Palestinian side was being left out of arrangements.

"This has not been co-ordinated or discussed with us," Mr Dahlan said.

Mr Barak wants to conclude implementation by February 2000 but the Palestinians want the process to be completed by November.

Israeli envoy Gilead Sher met Mr Dahlan and the senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat at the Gaza-Israel border on Sunday for the second time in two days.

[ image: Ehud Barak could forge ahead regardless]
Ehud Barak could forge ahead regardless
"We still have our differences on the timeframe and on issues of substance as relating to some major issues in the Wye River memorandum," Mr Erekat said after the meeting.

The two sides agreed to meet again on Tuesday to discuss the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Last week, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to delay the start of implementation of the Wye accord to the beginning of September.

Under the agreement, Israel promised to pull out of from 13% of the occupied lands over 12 weeks in exchange for greater security guarantees by the Palestinians.

Wye questions

Correspondents say Mr Barak's 1 October start date for the pull-back suggests he is forging ahead with his own timetable, whatever the outcome of bilateral talks.

[ image: Palestinian police inspecting suspected Hebron bombmakers' handiwork]
Palestinian police inspecting suspected Hebron bombmakers' handiwork
Peace talks between the sides have also been deadlocked over Israel's reluctance to implement all of the Wye agreement before final status talks on the trickiest outstanding Palestinian-Israeli issues.

Israel also agreed to release 750 Palestinian prisoners, but the Palestinians were furious when 86 of the first batch of 250 prisoners released were "common criminals" rather than "political prisoners".

Palestinian obligations are to gather illegal weapons, arrest wanted militants, prevent incitement to violence against Israel and reduce the size of the Palestinian police force.

Hebron bomb

Earlier on Sunday, an explosion ripped through a suspected bomb factory in a warehouse in the Palestinian-controlled sector of the West Bank town of Hebron.

No-one was injured in the blast which is thought to have been caused by accident while Islamic militants were preparing a car-bomb.

Hamas leaders have threatened in recent weeks to revive a bombing campaign to stop a revival of the current peace process.

Steel shutters were blown off the front of the building and landed about 15 meters away.

Reporters allowed inside the shop saw an array of model vehicles fitted with wiring, as well as remote controls.

At least two men were arrested and an investigation has been launched.

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