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Peres Encouraged By Recent Israeli-Palestinian Overtures - 2002-02-04

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says he is encouraged by recent overtures between Israel and the Palestinians. He made the comments to reporters Monday, after meeting at United Nations headquarters with Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Israel's foreign minister says his government remains willing to hold talks with the Palestinian Authority and he welcomed offers of assistance from the United Nations.

Nevertheless he made clear Israel alone would decide how to proceed in working out any political settlement with the Palestinians. "When it comes to fighting terror we are part of a global composition. But when it comes to making peace with the Palestinians I think it is for us to take the initiative.

Mr. Peres says he is still optimistic about the prospects for an eventual settlement. Yet he warned Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat to be realistic about what he could expect. "I hope he understands there is no chance that the Palestinian vision will be fully implemented, as we don't have a chance to implement fully the Israeli vision. Peace means a compromise between two contradictory visions," he said.

Mr. Peres referred to recent discussions between representatives of Mr. Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He insisted those talks would continue, but cautioned his country will not be rushed into any sort of deal, unless it is acceptable to the Israeli public.

"We are looking not for a partisan victory in Israel. We are looking for a serious majority to support peace. And I hope we shall be able to build such a majority," he said. The Foreign Minister also says Israel plans to appeal to the United Nations over Iranian involvement in Lebanon. He says Iran has supplied the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah with thousands of rockets capable of hitting Israel. He also accused Iran of sending members of its Revolutionary Guard to south Lebanon, which he said is contrary to the U-N charter.