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ISRAEL VOWS TO QUIT TALKS IF PLO ALLY PARTICIPATES

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Israel said Friday it may pull out of the Middle East peace conference if a Palestinian delegate who openly sides with the PLO participates.

Other questions possibly threatening next week's conference concern Israel's call to move later rounds of talks to the Middle East, rather than keeping them in Madrid, Spain, as Syria wants.The Palestine Liberation Organization, meanwhile, was torn by internal disputes after a rebel faction opposed to the conference seized control of a key PLO stronghold in southern Lebanon.

The disputes are the latest power plays as the date to begin the talks draws near.

The Madrid talks, aimed in part at establishing a Palestinian homeland, will be the first broad peace discussions in the region since 1973, when meetings in Geneva broke down.

Both Israel and the Arabs have adopted hard-line stances and could be headed for an impasse over demands for Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories and an immediate halt to Jewish settlements in the lands.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir named a 14-member delegation to the talks on Friday. Its key members share Shamir's opposition to giving up occupied land.

A Palestinian delegate to the conference, Saeb Erakat, said earlier that the Palestinian delegation "was chosen by the PLO" - a stance that flouts Israel's demand that the Palestinian team not be linked to the PLO.

An aide to Shamir, Yossi Ahimeir, said that if Erakat remains in the delegation, "we will consider not to participate."

Seeking to soothe the fraying tempers, Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini issued a statement complaining about unauthorized comments by Palestinian delegates, saying they were neither binding nor official.

Israeli sources in Washington said the dispute with Syria over where follow-up negotiations would be held could also break up the peace conference.

The sources said the Bush administration supports in principle Israel's wish to shift talks to the Middle East after the opening ceremony in Madrid.

Syria wants to keep the talks in the Spanish capital to give the peace conference an international flavor, the sources said.

On Thursday, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and mainstream members of the PLO hammered out a common negotiating position to bring to the conference.

In a meeting in Damascus, Syria, the front-line participants agreed not to reach separate peace accords with Israel, demanded a halt to Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and insisted that Israel negotiate on the status of Jerusalem.