Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization said early this morning that they have agreed in principle on security arrangements for the West Bank city of Hebron but that differences remain.
The two sides were drafting a single paper on Hebron security arrangements, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said. He was to return later today to resume talks with Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
"Now we shall try to see if we can narrow the gaps between our positions," Peres said.
He and Arafat have been meeting, with few breaks, since Saturday night in a Taba hotel. They have pledged to finish the long-delayed agreement that will govern Israel's redeployment from Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank and pave the way for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Peres would not say when Israel and the Palestinians will be able to sign the agreement. The White House had hoped to host a signing ceremony Thursday.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Jerusalem Post newspaper, however, that he believes there will be no White House ceremony this week. Rabin said he hopes an agreement will be initialed by the end of the week, with a signing ceremony to follow in Washington next week.
Early today, Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani told reporters that there had been a breakthrough on the principle of an Israeli redeployment of troops out of Hebron. He did not offer details.
"The details will be worked out," Kanafani said. "Maybe some details will cause problems, but we hope the good news is we will be able to reach an agreement."
However, sources in the Israeli and Palestinian delegations said that, under the plan, the Israeli army would continue to guard about 400 Jewish settlers living in the heart of ancient Hebron--in what the Palestinians call temporary arrangements--but would withdraw from many Palestinian neighborhoods of the city. About 120,000 Palestinians live in Hebron.
Roadblocks would be removed from some areas, and a small force of Palestinian police might be deployed at the Cave of the Patriarchs, the site where both Muslims and Jews believe that their joint patriarch, Abraham, is buried. Several hundred Palestinian police would be deployed in areas of the city outside the Jewish enclaves.
Militant Israeli settlers warned Monday that any deployment of Palestinian police in the city could lead to clashes between settlers and police.
"It is a recipe for bloodshed," Baruch Marzel, a former leader of the outlawed, right-wing Kach movement, told Israel Television on Monday night.