Top negotiators meet in secret, Israel says talks set to resume

JERUSALEM (AP) — A secret weekend meeting between Israel’s defense minister and Yasser Arafat’s top deputy has brought the resumption of talks between the two sides closer, an Israeli official said Sunday.
Palestinian negotiators would not discuss the meeting, but Avi Beniahu, an aide to Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, said Mordechai met with Mahmoud Abbas late Saturday in the Jerusalem area and agreed that their negotiating teams would reconvene shortly.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, would not confirm the meeting took place. He told Israel radio that Israeli negotiators “haven’t brought any new ideas at all” to further discussions on an Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank. Building in Jewish settlements there has more than doubled in the first quarter of 1998, the Israeli group Peace Now said Sunday.
Israel’s Army Radio said talks would resume Monday.
Palestinian leaders were to meet late Sunday night in the Gaza Strip to discuss the current situation in peace talks, Erekat told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile in Alexandria, Egypt, Syrian President Hafez Assad held talks Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the troubled Middle East peace process.
The two leaders talked briefly with reporters after meeting but gave few details.