Peres, Arafat reaffirm July 1 deadline on self-rule

JERUSALEM — During a surprise meeting held in Morocco over the weekend, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat reaffirmed their commitment to meet a July 1 deadline for reaching agreement on the next stage of Palestinian self-rule.

The declaration was made in a joint statement issued in the Moroccan capital of Rabat by Peres and Arafat, after four hours of discussions late Saturday night at the royal palace. The talks were mediated by Morocco's King Hassan II.

In the statement, the two said that by July 1, an agreement would be reached on "the redeployment of the [Israeli] army, security arrangements, elections and the transfer of authority" in the West Bank.

An Arafat spokesman said Israel also "agreed to facilitate the transfer of goods and people across the border."

Israel has placed limits on the passage of goods from the Palestinian autonomy into Israel as a result of a recent series of terror attacks launched against Israelis by Islamic fundamentalist opponents of the peace process.

On Monday, after negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a terminal for the passage of goods between Egypt and the autonomy opened at Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators convened Monday for another round of talks focusing on the transfer of control from Israel to the Palestinian Authority of more than eight areas of civilian responsibility. Among the areas discussed were fuel, gas, trade, industry, postal services and insurance.

Israel Radio reported this week that senior Palestinian security officials toured the West Bank town of Jenin to survey the area in light of an Israel Defense Force withdrawal under the so-called "Jenin First" plan.

According to recent reports, the Israeli army will first redeploy from Jenin as part of a larger pullback from Arab population centers in the West Bank.