Arafat to Discuss Israeli Standoffs

RAMALLAH, West Bank?A U.S. envoy met Monday with Yasser Arafat to try to resolve the key dispute holding up the start of cease-fire talks?standoffs between Israeli troops and wanted men in Palestine’s West Bank headquarters and Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

The U.S. envoy, State Department official William Burns, met with Arafat for about two hours at the Palestinian leader’s compound. Arafat and about 300 aides, security guards and foreign volunteers have been confined to several rooms by Israeli troops since March 29.

Key issues in the Burns Arafat talks were the standoffs in Ramallah and Bethlehem, truce prospects and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians say they will not begin truce talks until Israeli forces have left all Palestinian-run areas in the West Bank. Israel says it will only lift the blockades once gunmen holed up in the two compounds surrender.