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Israel has new conditions for peace talks, reports say

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has raised new conditions for entering Middle East peace talks in addition to rejecting U.S. appeals for concessions, Israeli radio said Sunday. According to both government-run Israel Radio and Army Radio, a letter from Shamir that last week turned down President Bush's appeal for Israel to drop demands on procedural matters also said the Jewish state would insist on strict terms for Palestinian participation.

Israel will not attend a Middle East peace conference until there is agreement on who will represent the Palestinians, they said.

Shamir said Sunday that President Bush had asked Israel to freeze Jewish settlement in occupied areas in return for U.S. agreement to Israeli demands on proposed Middle East peace talks.

Shamir said Israel wanted Palestinians represented within a Jordanian delegation to the talks, chosen by Jordan with an Israeli veto.

Shamir gave no indication that he accepted the proposals.

"There is a statement in his (Bush's) telegram which says, if we could offer freezing settlements perhaps there would not be a need for the things that you are not satisfied with," Shamir told reporters.

"I don't want to say exactly how the Palestinian part of the Jordanian delegation will be formed. It is clear that we are counting on Jordan to form the delegation, but we must agree to the Palestinian component," he added.

The proposals were contained in a personal message from Bush to Shamir aimed at bridging differences between Israel and Arabs on peace talk plans.

According to Shamir's remarks, Bush indicated that in return for a halt to settlement in captured Arab lands the United States could accept Israel's opposition to any role for the United Nations and to the reconvening of the conference after country-to-country talks between Israel and Arab states.

The United States has said Israel's speedy expansion of Jewish settlements in occupied territory is one of the biggest obstacles to convening peace talks.

Syria, which the United States hopes to bring into the conference, has insisted on a significant U.N. role and a periodic reconvening of the full conference.