Israeli Political Crisis Casts Doubt on Resumption of Peace Talks
An Israeli official cast doubt Friday on the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians on Monday as scheduled because of the crisis in Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government.
The talks, to be held in the Washington area, are to be headed on the Israeli side by Public Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami.
But a spokesman for Ben Ami told AFP, "We don't know at this stage whether the minister will leave or not" for Washington.
Ben Ami is expected to attend an important cabinet meeting Sunday, which could see the resignation of ministers who voted Wednesday for an opposition bill calling for new elections.
The vote, though not yet binding, was a severe blow to Barak, who has been in office less than a year.
The leader of the Palestinian side on the negotiations, parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qorei, said as far as he was concerned the talks would still begin Monday.
He said the negotiations would cover both the so-called final status issues, which are meant to be resolved by September, and interim issues, including another Israeli handover of parts of the occupied West Bank.
The final status issues cover such thorny topics as Jerusalem, which both sides consider in whole or in part as their capital, Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlements.
So far the talks have made little progress, and their resumption was only announced after US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Tuesday -- OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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