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US plays 'positive' role in Middle East talks

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Palestinians say the United States has presented 'constructive proposals' to spur talks with Israel, while Syria has asked Washington to intervene in its bilateral negotiations with Israel to break an impasse.

Although the Palestinian spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, yesterday dissuaded the US from taking sides in the negotiations, she said that Washington was 'trying to exert a positive influence in the peace process and has presented constructive and creative proposals'.

Three weeks into the sixth round of bilateral talks between Israel and Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinians, the Israeli-Palestinian talks remained bogged down over questions of Palestinian self-rule. The Palestinians insist on an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while Israel is calling for a transitional period of limited autonomy before full independence can be considered.

Palestinian delegates said yesterday that the US deputy secretary of state, Edward Djerejian, had urged them to accept an Israeli proposal to set up working committees to deal with a variety of issues. But the Palestinians had rejected the proposal, the sources said.