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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 14:59 GMT
W Bank handover talks break down
Palestinian militant fires gun in Tulkarm
Israel says Palestinians must take tougher security measures
Discussions between Israeli and Palestinian officials on the handover of two West Bank cities have broken up without agreement.

Talks reportedly stalled over the issue of the removal of an Israeli army checkpoint at the entrance to Jericho.

On Tuesday, Israel and the Palestinians said Jericho and Tulkarm would be ceded to the Palestinians within days.

Last month, Israel agreed to withdraw from five cities, but froze the move after a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

Israel's defence minister is to visit Egypt on Thursday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

It will be Shaul Mofaz's first trip to Egypt and Israeli media reports say the talks will focus on the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Roadblock row

Haj Ismail Jaber, head of Palestinian security forces in the West Bank, said negotiations on Jericho and Tulkarm would continue.

"We did not reach a final agreement. We are still in the process of consultations," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Map
Mr Jaber met Gen Tal Russo, commander of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, but the talks broke up after just 20 minutes, the Associated Press reported.

Former Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told AP: "Without lifting the roadblocks, the handover will be meaningless."

Previously when Israel has withdrawn from Palestinian population centres, it has left them ringed them with checkpoints, severely restricting movement.

Summit promise

The two sides said Israel would hand security control of Jericho and Tulkarm to the Palestinians "in the coming days", following talks on Tuesday night between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Mr Mofaz.

It's a matter of them [Palestinians] taking responsibility to stop terror
Amos Gilad
Defence Ministry official
It was the highest-level meeting since a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on 25 February, which killed five Israelis.

The bomber came from Tulkarm.

Israel agreed to withdraw from five West Bank cities following last month's Sharm al-Sheikh summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Mr Abbas.

Senior Defence Ministry official Amos Gilad said a handover was dependant on Palestinians preventing militant attacks.

"It's a matter of them [Palestinians] taking responsibility to stop terror," he told Israel radio.

Mr Abbas has announced that Palestinian factions will meet in Cairo next week in what he said would be an attempt to strengthen national unity.

Israel is planning to pull all its 8,000 settlers from Gaza and the troops that protect them as part of the disengagement plan. It will maintain control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace.


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