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The BBC's Paul Anderson
"It now looks certain they'll opt for postponement"
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Sunday, 10 September, 2000, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
'Decisive' push for Mid-East peace
A Peace Now protester in Jerusalem
A demonstrator displays a pro-peace banner in Jerusalem
Israeli and Palestinian officials have indicated they are ready to resume intensive and "decisive" peace talks in an attempt to end 52 years of conflict.

An Israeli spokesman, Avshalom Vilan, told the BBC that Israel was prepared to seize the opportunity of US President Bill Clinton's last months in office to reach a final settlement.

He said Israel was ready to resume talks from Monday if the Palestinians decided to delay their unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state expected on 13 September.

Jerusalem is displayed on banners
The main stumbling block is the issue of Jerusalem
Palestinian officials indicated the decision would be delayed on Sunday, after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat left the way open in a speech to the Palestinian mini-parliament.

US appeal

The 129-member Palestinian Central Council (PCC) began a closed, two-day session on Saturday to review the proposal.

Mr Arafat was also quoted as telling the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) that peace talks with Israel would resume, following an appeal by Mr Clinton at the United Nations millennium summit in New York.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a senior aide to Mr Arafat, said the negotiations with the Israelis, which would attempt to bridge divisions brought into sharp focus at the Camp David summit in July, would be "decisive".

The talks near Washington broke down over the issue of Jerusalem, which both sides want as their capital.

No further progress was made at separate meetings last week between Mr Clinton and the Palestinian and Israeli leaders on the fringes of the UN talks.

Time pressure

The US leader also held impromptu talks with Mr Barak on Saturday to prepare a "strategy for intensive peace discussions".

All sides have spoken of pressure to produce a final agreement soon.

The Israeli prime minister is expected to face a no-confidence vote when the Knesset (parliament) ends its summer recess at the end of October.

And a new US president will be elected in November.

Palestinian officials have suggested they will give new talks four weeks to succeed.

Many countries, including traditional allies such as Russia, have advised the Palestinian leadership to delay declaring a state.

Observers have warned that such a declaration would effect spell a cancellation of the peace process and spark a descent into violence.

But, according to the head of the PCC, Salim Zanoun, a delayed declaration would come no later than 15 November.

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See also:

04 Sep 00 | Middle East
Arab League warns on Jerusalem
02 Jul 00 | Middle East
Palestinian statehood 'irreversible'
04 Jul 00 | Media reports
Palestinian leaders share Arafat's vision
20 Jul 00 | Middle East
Analysis: A faltering peace
25 Jul 00 | Middle East
Camp David timeline
19 Jul 00 | Middle East
Jerusalem: Difficult divisions
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