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Palestinians to talk only if pullback is OK’d

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Rebuffing an appeal from the Clinton administration, Palestinians said Saturday they will negotiate face-to-face with Israel only if it accepts U.S. proposals for a West Bank pullback.

"Resuming direct talks with Israel depends on its declaration of commitment to the U.S. initiative," Palestinian negotiator Hasan As-four said.On Friday in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Israel and the Palestinians had to negotiate in order to settle their differences on the American pullback plan, which has been widely reported but never formally unveiled.

The United States has been trying to win an Israeli agreement to withdraw from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank. Palestinians now fully or partly control 27 percent of it.

"There is a limited amount that the United States or anyone can do if the parties themselves do not talk with each other to resolve the remaining difficult issues," Albright said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, just back from Washington, was evasive when asked about Albright's call for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks.