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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 00:40 GMT
US envoy urges Mid-East action

Dennis Ross and Yasser Arafat
Ross and Arafat: no sign of progress in the talks yet

The United States special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross has said there is still a great deal to be done by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and urged both sides to get on with it.
Middle East

Mr Ross's comments follow a meeting with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank Town of Ramallah.

The Israeli-Palestinian talks are stalled, and relations between the two sides appear to be at their worst for many months.

"There is a lot of work to be done and the best way to do that is to get on with it. We need to resolve some of the remaining problems with regard to the interim issues, we have to get on with the final status negotiations," Mr Ross said.

No details of the meeting between Mr Ross and the Palestinian leader have yet emerged.

Palestinian demand refused

Hopes of breaking the impasse in the peace process during the visit of the US envoy were dampened earlier on Tuesday when the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, said he would not meet Palestinian demands for troop withdrawals from in and around Jerusalem.

Ross and Ehud Barak Mr Ross passed on news of no Israeli concessions near Jerusalem
The Palestinians wanted the troop withdrawals as part of the land transfer that was due a month ago under a signed interim accord.

According to Israeli radio, Mr Barak asked the US envoy to tell the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that his country would consider "slight modifications" to the planned withdrawals.

"But in no case was there any question of transferring to the Palestinians any land from the Jerusalem area," Mr Barak said.

Warnings of new 'Intifadah'

One of Israel's leading daily newspapers, Haaretz, published an article on Tuesday under the headline: "Intelligence agencies warn of new Intifadah erupting after Pope's visit."

The 'Intifadah' is the name given to a popular Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories starting in 1987.

clashes Palestinian policemen arrest a student in Hebron
In the report, a "senior security official" warns of increased acts of violence against Israelis in the coming months.

The official expects an upsurge in violence follow the visit to the Holy Land in March of Pope John Paul II.

The predicted violence, the report says, will be a direct result of frustration over the lack of progress in the peace process.

Palestinian clashes

In a separate development, Palestinian demonstrators and Palestinian police clashed on Tuesday in the West Bank town of Hebron.

The trouble came as teachers in Hebron - who have gone on strike in support of colleagues in Bethlehem over a pensions dispute - marched on the Palestinian Education Ministry.

The teachers were joined by more than 1,000 students calling for the resignation of the Palestinian Education Minister, Yasser Amr.

Some threw stones and bottles at the police who responded with batons.

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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Israel protests at Vatican deal
13 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Mid-East deadline passes
07 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Palestinians freeze peace talks
11 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: The 'roadmap' to peace

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