Secret Mideast Talks

At the ire of the foreign minister, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak held secret talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, according to officials. Israel radio reported that they discussed negotiations for a peace treaty, which resumed this week after a long stalemate.

David Ziso, Barak's spokesman, confirmed that a meeting took place, but would give no details. The radio report said the meeting lasted several hours Thursday night. Both leaders like to work late at night.

The secret session followed the announcement that Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo will head the Palestinian negotiating team for the treaty talks. Israel has yet to name the head of its delegation.

Resumption of the negotiations is part of the latest interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, signed Sept. 5 at Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian resort. Under the accord, Israel is to turn over another 11 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian civilian control, bringing the total to 40 percent, as peace treaty talks proceed.

Israel carried out the first of three transfers, handing over 7 percent of the territory. The Palestinians, obligated to control violent extremists and reduce the size of their police force, handed the Israelis a list of their police officers.

Foreign Minister David Levy said he wasn't informed about the meeting, but endorsed the idea. He said that Barak and Arafat should meet often, not just in crisis situations, to increase trust between them.

Levy was unhappy that Barak did not clue him in. Â"Proper working methods require, if not consultation, then at least information,Â" Levy complained on Israel radio.

Levy, chosen by Barak to coordinate Israel's negotiating team for the peace treaty negotiations, represented Israel at the ceremonial resumption of the talks Monday at the crossing point between Israel and Gaza. Arafat's deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, represented the Palestinians.

In the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement, the two sides pledged to try to achieve a framework for a peace accord in February, and a full treaty next September.

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