Trying for Movement on Hebron

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JERUSALEM: Undaunted by Sunday's fruitless pre-dawn meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, U.S. Middle Eastern envoy Dennis Ross spent Monday prodding the two leaders to meet again to resolve the impasse over a Hebron deal. According to an agreement signed in 1995, Israel was supposed to pull troops out of Hebron, the last occupied town in the West Bank, by March 1996. But Netanyahu has delayed the troop removal, saying the 500 Jewish settlers living in Hebron still need protection from Palestinians. While Israel says it remains committed to an eventual withdrawal, the sticking point has been over when this will occur. Arafat wants a written timeline that includes pledges for continued withdrawals from the West Bank. Netanyahu insists such an agreement would never be ratified by the conservative Israeli Cabinet. But even as the two sides remain far apart, the prime minister said neither is willing to give up on peace. "The work continues," Netanyahu said, while Ross said he expects the two leaders to agree to another meeting soon.