Palestinians again reject proposals for redeployment

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority Tuesday rejected Israel's most recent ideas on redeployment, but stopped short of declaring an end to negotiations.

The Israeli proposals had been presented in talks between chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's adviser Yitzhak Molcho on Monday night.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, speaking to reporters in Ramallah, said the Israeli proposals did not reflect the U.S. bridging plan for a handover of 13.1 percent of the West Bank to full Palestinian control.

"In actual fact, these ideas are very far from either the U.S. initiative or the agreements between us and them," Arafat said.

Asked about whether the talks would continue, Arafat replied: "We are studying the matter."

Speaking after he met with visiting Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile, Arafat expressed support for the Egyptian-French initiative to convene an international conference to break the current deadlock.

Arafat spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the Erekat-Molcho talks were "a waste of time."

Erekat and Molcho met for several hours in Jerusalem, but did not speak to reporters afterward. Erekat briefed Arafat on the talks late Monday night.

Hassan Asfour, who heads the Palestinian Authority negotiating department, said the Israeli ideas were rejected.

He said Israel had suggested that 3 percent of the withdrawal be Judean Desert land that would be classified as a nature reserve, with Israel retaining overall security control.

"We made it clear that this position cannot serve as the basis between us and the Israelis," Asfour said. "It will be difficult to have further meetings on the issues that were raised Tuesday."

A Palestinian official added that the Israeli offer to give the Palestinians civil authority over the 3 percent is meaningless because no one lives in the desert areas.

Palestinian officials said the decision on whether to continue the talks will be made after consultation with the Clinton administration, which has pressed for the current negotiations.

A U.S. official in Washington, however, implicitly attacked the Israeli proposals as nothing new.

"It's up to the Israelis to explain, to make to the Palestinians a proposal that's 10-plus-three, not 10-plus-zero, if they wish it to be seriously considered," he said. "If there's a reason why this should be attractive to the Palestinians, the Israelis need to present it to the Palestinians — in writing."

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials expressed doubt whether Israel will implement its decision to release 100 imprisoned Palestinians.

Palestinian Legislative Council member Fares Kaddoura, a member of the Palestinian Authority's prisoner committee, cited the demand by several Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, that the Palestinians transfer Palestinians suspected of killing Israelis.

"This is impossible," Kaddoura said. "Nobody can implement such an act of treason."