Israelis and Palestinians to enter marathon talks


Israeli and Palestinian negotiators planned to launch marathon peace talks in Egypt today with time fast running out for a deal before Israel's prime ministerial election on February 6th.

The ministerial-level talks, widely expected to last up to 10 days, will be held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Taba and could give a new push to Middle East peacemaking in the early days of Mr George W. Bush's US presidency.

A peace deal also could boost Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's re-election chances in a race which opinion polls predict he will lose to Gen Ariel Sharon. But an accord might also hurt Mr Barak if voters believe he made too many concessions.

Under Clinton's guidelines, accepted by Israel, the Palestinians would establish a state in much of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, but Israel would retain blocs of Jewish settlements on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war.