Arafat Pushes Israel On Wye

After talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Monday, Palestinian president Yasser Arafat said that Israel was still blocking the full implementation of the Wye River land-for-security agreement.

"Until now [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Barak says he is committed to the Wye River agreement but when we sit down together...we find difficulties which the Israelis impose, such as the timetable and some Israeli interpretations of some clauses in Wye River which are far from what the agreements established," Arafat told reporters in Alexandria.

He said the Palestinians insisted on implementing the agreement, which calls for Israel to withdraw from a further 13 percent of the West Bank in three stages, in return for specific Palestinian security measures.

Arafat said the start of the third phase of the Israeli pullback "could coincide with final-status negotiations," but did not elaborate.

Barak has been trying to persuade Arafat to wrap the final stage of the U.S.-brokered Wye agreement into talks on a final peace settlement but Arafat has been resisting this.

Palestinians and Israelis failed to agree in talks Sunday on the timing of the steps to complete the accord reached in October. It originally called for a 12-week schedule of reciprocal measures by the two sides.

Barak's hard-line predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu carried out the first stage, handing over two percent of the land before suspending the accord over alleged Palestinian violations.

On Aug. 8, Arafat agreed to Barak's proposal to re-start the Wye timetable in September.

Barak said Israel would carry out the second redeployment from five percent of the area in October, but has asked Arafat to consent to a delay in the third stage of withdrawal from seven percent of the West Bank, which under the 12-week schedule would now take place in November.

Between the Israeli pullbacks, the Palestinian Authority must collect illegal weapons, crack down on anti-Israel incitement and provide information on the size of its police force, according to the agreement.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said after Mubarak's meeting with Arafat that there were still problems over implementing the Wye agreement, but "we would not say there is a crisis."

Arafat returned to Gaza after the talks.

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