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Palestinians ask for more details on U.S. peace proposals
Summit planned for Thursday in Egypt
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A top Palestinian official said on Wednesday that more details are needed before Palestinians can respond to U.S. President Bill Clinton's proposals aimed at building a foundation for a final peace agreement with Israel.
"The issues that we're dealing with require details -- details on the geographic maps, details on specific issues -- because we don't want to end up saying a positive answer and then once we go and inquire about something, they say ... 'It's not going to open' (for discussion), said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. "Then you have an explosion."
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat are considering proposals Clinton made at the end of meetings last week between Palestinian and Israeli officials in Washington.
The two plan to travel to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday for meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but no face-to-face meeting has been confirmed.
Sources say Clinton's guidelines offer compromises on several of the most contentious matters, including the final status of Jerusalem and the fate of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who fled Israel since 1948.
Both sides must make concessions
The proposals, according to sources, give sovereignty to the Palestinians over several Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the Muslim compound atop Haram al-Sharif -- called Temple Mount by Jews. The Israelis would have sovereignty over the site of the Western Wall at the base of the hill.
Two mosques sit within the confines of Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), marking a spot known as the third-holiest in Islam. But the site is also the location of ancient Jewish temples -- and the one piece of temple wall that remains standing -- making it the most sacred spot for Jews.
Sources say the proposals also make the ancient city the capital of both Israel and the as-yet-undeclared Palestinian state.
In return for concessions on Jerusalem, the proposals are said to call for the Palestinians to relax their demand that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to homes in Israel. The proposals would allow the refugees to settle in the Palestinian state with financial compensations from Israel.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, a member of Barak's coalition, told CNN that the proposals called for hard decisions and would be difficult to sell to the Israeli people.
"By and large it is a time of decision," Peres said. "It is a cabinet that is ready to decide. It is a cabinet that knows not only the price that it should have to pay historically, but the price that it should have to pay politically."
Clinton waiting for response
Clinton had been expecting a response from the Israelis and Palestinians on Wednesday before he decided whether to summon the leaders to Washington for another attempt at making the peace deal final. A summer summit at Camp David fell apart over many of the same issues included in the latest proposals.
Earlier this week, Barak said that the Israelis would accept Clinton's proposals if the Palestinians did the same, but Erakat insisted that the proposals were so far too vague. They have sent a letter to both Clinton and the Israelis, he said, asking for further clarification.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, who attended the Washington meetings with Erakat, said that the Israelis had some reservations about the proposals as well, adding that he thought the answer from both sides would be "Yes, but ... "
Arafat, celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, told reporters that the holiday was "a decisive one."
"God willing, it will represent a strong start in which a Palestinian boy and girl will raise the flag of Palestine over the walls, churches and minarets of Jerusalem," he said.
CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna and Correspondent Matthew Chance contributed to this report.
Clinton expects to hear from Arafat, Barak by Wednesday
Israel Defense Forces (in Hebrew)
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