Palestinians Walk out of Talks with Israelis on Hebron U.S. Mediator Returning Home after Negotiations Break Down

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Palestinian negotiators walked out late Monday on talks dealing with Israel's scheduled withdrawal from Hebron.

The walkout followed an announcement by Dennis Ross, the U.S. mediator, that he was returning to Washington, having failed in 15 days to achieve a breakthrough.

Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian negotiator, referred to Israel's Dan Shomron, a former Israeli army chief, saying, "Unfortunately the head of the Israeli delegation treats the Palestinian negotiators as if he is a military leader and not as a negotiator." Moshe Fogel, an Israeli government spokesman, said the Palestinians seemed angry, "but we believe these are delaying tactics." The latest talks began in response to a plea from President Bill Clinton following a week of violence in which Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers opened fire on one another, killing 79 people. At a meeting in Washington last month, the two sides agreed to negotiate non-stop until they reached agreement. The two sides have held marathon sessions to close a deal on a long-promised Israeli troop pullout from Hebron, the last and most sensitive of seven West Bank towns and cities scheduled to be handed over to the Palestinians under a 1995 agreement. Both Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization have accused each other of stalling. Palestinian officials said after Monday's walkout that Shomron had insisted on discussing Israeli proposals already rejected by the Palestinians. One PLO official said the Palestinian delegates had gone to Bethlehem to brief Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on the talks. Splits Among Israelis Fogel, the Israeli spokesman, said the Palestinians walked out after the Israelis refused to re-negotiate aspects of the agreement that had been worked out in recent negotiations. A separate committee working on civilian aspects of the new Hebron arrangement was still meeting, he said. The Associated Press said the Palestinians had broken off the talks several times to consult with Arafat, each time returning to the table. The PLO official, who declined to be identified by name, said the delay in reaching agreement was due to splits among the Israeli delegation, which includes both political and military negotiators. Dahlan, the Palestinian negotiator, said earlier Monday that there was still no agreement on such major security issues as Israel's demand for a right of hot pursuit into areas due to be handed over to Palestinian police. Ross, the U.S. mediator, insisted that there had been progress in the latest round of talks - just not enough. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said: "Mr. Ross has been talking about progress since the first day he got here. …