Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began marathon talks in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Taba Sunday aimed at narrowing their differences over a blueprint for peace left by departed US president Bill Clinton.
Leading the delegations were Israeli foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, and Palestinian parliament chief, Ahmed Qorei, who opened the talks in a hotel conference room, said Haaretz newspaper.
"The best," Ben Ami told journalists who asked what he expected from the talks.
Without explanation, the negotiators then moved the talks to a ninth-floor bedroom where a table had been set up for them to sit opposite one another. They then posed for photographers before launching into the details, said the daily.
On the agenda were the troublesome fates of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, water rights and boundaries of a Palestinian state, many of the same topics that led to the failure of the Camp David summit in July.
Nabil Shaath, an aide to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, told AFP before talks began: "We are ready for serious negotiations but we are not ready to abandon the basis of negotiations, which is UN Resolutions 242 and 194."
Both sides have played down chances for success amid sharply opposing views on Jerusalem and refugees in particular, with Ben Ami limiting hopes to a possible framework agreement for a comprehensive settlement, said AFP.
According to the agency, a peace accord, even limited, is seen as Barak's only chance of winning the special election for prime minister against Sharon, the Likud opposition leader who enjoys a commanding lead in opinion polls.
But Barak also runs the risk of being seen as making too many concessions.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian officials were quoted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper as saying that a security meeting with top Israeli officials ended in failure.
In the Gaza Strip, an Israeli soldier was seriously wounded Monday when a bomb exploded near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, reported the Jerusalem Post.
A Palestinian youth was shot dead by Israeli forces near the Karni crossing Sunday evening, said press reports.
Mohammed al-Sharif, 15, was shot in the heart, and died at Shifa hospital, said AFP.
He had been screaming along with 15 Palestinian boys at an Israeli army bulldozer clearing fields backed by two army jeeps, witnesses and Palestinian security officers were quoted by the agency as saying.
An Israeli soldier stepped from his jeep and shot al-Sharif, and then the soldiers drove away, the witnesses and security officers said.
However, Haaretz quoted an Israeli military spokesperson as saying that soldiers had been attacked by stone throwers, and fired "warning shots" to clear the area.
"The Israeli army will examine the circumstances of this incident," the military spokesman said -- Albawaba.com
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