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'Progress' in Hebron troop pull-out

The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for three hours early yesterday in an unannounced summit at the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. Both sides reported progress towards Israeli redeployment in Hebron.

The Palestinians are demanding a binding timetable for troop withdrawals from rural areas still under Israeli military supervision. According to the Oslo agreement, these should have begun last September and ended one year later. Mr Netanyahu is reported to have offered to start the withdrawals in March this year and complete them in March 1998. Mr Arafat insisted that he keep to the original schedule. He fears Israel will try to stall once the Hebron issue is out of the way. Eric Silver, Jerusalem