Date agreed on Jericho accord

Israel and the PLO have said they will sign their twice- delayed accord on Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and Jericho on 4 May. However the announcement that Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, are to meet on the day before to sort out remaining issues serves as a warning that agreement may not be final.

The announcement was made by Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, who has hosted the latest high-level meetings between the key interested parties, including Mr Arafat, Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister, and Warren Christopher, the visiting US Secretary of State.

Mr Mubarak said: 'I hope and I suggested that the target date for signature will be on 4 May in Cairo here and both parties agreed.

'The meeting between Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat will be on the 3rd . . . I asked Mr Christopher just to delay his mission and attend with us the signature of this declaration.'

Mr Christopher said: 'Some progress was made on the outstanding issues. What I found myself so impressive is the sense of urgency that both sides now have about reaching a conclusion.'

Mr Peres said that two outstanding issues for Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat had to resolve were the size of the Jericho area, and whether the Palestinians would have a guard on the bridge between Jordan and the West Bank.

It was always known that however much the negotiating teams had narrowed their differences, some issues could only be resolved in a Rabin-to- Arafat encounter. If agreement on the key issues is reached next week, the Israelis will be ready to withdraw speedily from Jericho and the Gaza Strip, only weeks after the original deadline of 13 April.

Yoram Skolnick, from the Jewish settlement of Pnei Hever in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a Palestinian. In March 1993 he shot dead 20- year-old Musa Abu Sabha after the Palestinian's hands and feet had been tied and he had been stripped naked, police testified.

After his arrest, Skolnick was quoted as having told police, 'I shot the terrorist in order to teach the Arabs a lesson.'

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