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Arafat meets with Israeli envoy

Yasser Arafat, the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman, held his first direct talks Monday with an Israeli envoy since the Hebron massacre, seeking a breakthrough to allow peace talks to resume on Palestinian self-rule.

After two days of Egyptian and U.S. mediation, the two sides are discussing a package that would include a stepped-up timetable for negotiating the future of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, armed international observers in Palestinian areas and further controls on the arms carried by Israeli settlers, officials close to the negotiations said.

Arafat met with Jacques Neriah, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's political adviser, and David Sultan, Israel's ambassador to Egypt. Their discussions were the first since the Feb. 25 attack that killed more than 40 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque.

Muslims, Croats meet deadlines

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina _ Exhausted by a conflict that has shattered both sides, Bosnia's Muslims and Croats eagerly capitulated Monday to a U.N. deadline for withdrawing heavy weapons from central Bosnian war zones.

U.N. officials said they were satisfied the Muslim-led government forces and Croat fighters had pulled back tanks and howitzers from an exclusion zone or surrendered them to U.N. containment.

More surprising to many residents of Mostar has been the virtual halt in small-arms fire, allowing them to stroll outside with a modicum of security for the first time in almost a year.

U.S. mediators said negotiations between Bosnian and Croatian officials on the terms of a pact agreed to in principle last week were making progress as they got under way in Vienna.

Meanwhile, in northern Bosnia, U.N. troops pushed through to Tuzla airport with tanks and other hardware, Maj. Rob Annink said.

Bosnian government troops have promised to hand the airport over to U.N. operation in exchange for assurances from the Serbs who command nearby high ground that they will not target incoming planes carrying humanitarian aid.

Cubans reach

Texas on freighter

HOUSTON _ Five men found drifting in a wooden boat last week in a bid to leave Cuba arrived in Texas late Sunday aboard the freighter that found them, federal officials said Monday.

The five Cubans, who ranged in age from 29 to 47, were found Feb. 26 by the ship Crystal Vessel about 30 miles off the coast of Cuba in the Gulf of Mexico.

The men were brought on board the ship, which arrived in the port of Galveston on a scheduled stop, said Lisa Jacobs, a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman.

Jacobs said it was unclear how long the men had been at sea, but they had gone without food and water for some time.

The men have spoken with relatives in the United States and were expected to soon travel to Florida, Jacobs said.

Clinton protests teen's punishment

WASHINGTON _ The United States has strongly protested to Singapore about the sentencing of a teenage American to be flogged. President Clinton called the punishment extreme and said it should be reconsidered.

The accused youth, Michael Peter Fay, 18, was sentenced Thursday to six lashes from a rattan cane. He also was ordered to pay $2,200 in fines and to spend four months in jail.

Fay was charged with vandalism, mischief and possession of stolen property. Among other things, he was accused of spray-painting cars. The youth says police coerced him into confessing.

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