Israeli-Palestinian talks under way in D.C.

Negotiations at the secluded site are expected to last seven to 10 days.

"The purpose of this meeting is to float the points of agreement and dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians," said David Ivry, Israel's ambassador to the United States.

If negotiators determine such points of consensus and disagreement and isolate which issues require political decisions by the leaders, the round will be considered a success, Ivry said.

Both U.S. and Israeli officials say the talks are significant because they represent a renewal of trust between the sides in recent weeks. The talks stalled in early February.

"However low key this opening may be, the key issue is that Israeli and Palestinian talks are now back on track," a senior U.S. administration official said.

While hesitant to reveal how the sides would tackle the final-status issues, the official stressed that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will talk directly, with the United States intervening only when needed.

U.S. special Middle East envoy Dennis Ross is due to be present most of the time, with his assistant, Aaron Miller, joining periodically throughout the talks.

Neither Secretary of State Madeleine Albright nor President Clinton, who is now traveling through South Asia, is due to participate.

The Israelis and Palestinians have set May as a new deadline for a framework deal, and September as the goal for a final peace accord.