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Palestinian Leaders Call For Albright Arafat Camp Says Peace Talks Require A Senior U.S. Official

Sun., April 27, 1997, midnight

A top aide to Yasser Arafat said Saturday the Palestinians have asked Washington to send Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the region to jump-start the peace process.

“If the Americans are really willing to achieve a resolution to get out of the crisis, then they have to show their commitment,” said Tayeb Abdel Rahim, secretary of the Palestinian Cabinet.

“We have called upon the American administration to bring negotiations to a level above (U.S. Middle East envoy) Dennis Ross and send Mrs. Albright,” he said at a news conference in Gaza City.

Ross has been the primary U.S. negotiator in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, now at a virtual standstill.

Meanwhile, Palestinians were cheered by the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution demanding a halt to the building of a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, calling it a victory.

Israel categorically rejected the resolution, approved Friday by an overwhelming 134-3 vote.

Dani Shek, spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said Israel believes all unresolved issues should be solved directly by the Palestinians and Israelis themselves.

“Israel categorically rejects the one-sided resolution adopted by this session, which stands in contradiction to the peace process and its principles,” Shek said.

Palestinian officials heralded the resolution as proof of world support for their cause.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians were especially pleased by the U.N. call for countries to stop financial assistance to Israel that goes to building settlements.

The resolution, submitted by Arab and Muslim countries over U.S. objections, marked the first suggestion of possible collective international action against Israel for its controversial building policy.

The groundbreaking in March of a 6,500-unit housing development on a Jerusalem hill - called Har Homa by Israelis and Jabal Abu Ghneim by Palestinians - spurred almost daily rioting by Palestinians and a deep crisis in the peace process.

The building site has come to symbolize the ideological impasse between the two sides.

The land in dispute is in the sector of Jerusalem that Israel seized from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast War, and where the Palestinians hope to establish their capital.

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