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Israeli PM: Palestinians Have a Credibility Problem - 2001-11-07

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has defended Israel's policy of targeted killings and rejected European fears that Israeli-Palestinian strife is fueling terrorism. Mr. Peres spoke to reporters in Paris Wednesday, where he held talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres arrived in Paris following talks in Brussels earlier this week with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Speaking to reporters in the French capital, Mr. Peres said he told Mr. Arafat that Palestinian credibility remains the biggest stumbling block to ending tensions in the region.

"We have a problem with the credibility of the relations with the Palestinians," said Mr. Peres. "They have declared the right things, they have promised important things, but when it comes to the real story, we are finding all the time many difficulties."

Nonetheless, Mr. Peres said he hoped Israeli troops would be able to withdraw from West Bank towns in a matter of days. If all went well, he suggested, the Gaza Strip could be next.

The foreign minister's remarks came after meetings with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin Wednesday.

In remarks to reporters Wednesday night, Mr. Peres rejected suggestions that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian strife was feeding terrorism. President Chirac voiced such fears Tuesday, following a meeting with President Bush in Washington. The French president said finding a solution to the Middle East conflict was essential.

Earlier the Israeli foreign minister told French lawmakers that his country's policy of targeted killings of Palestinian militants suspected in terror operations was a necessary act of self-defense. He said the policy was required to face the "new phenomenon" of the suicide attacker. Palestinians charge that the so-called targeted operations are assassinations, sometimes of political leaders.

Following his visit to Paris, Mr. Peres travels to Sweden.