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Middle East peace prospectsThe Israeli government's decision on Wednesday not to continue peace negotiations with its Arab neighbors on Dec. 4, as United States Secretary of State James Baker III had proposed, illustrates its profound unease with the direction the talks are taking, according to an analyst here. The inner Cabinet's suggestion that the negotiations resume only on Dec. 9 also seems to reflect Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's anger at having been presented with the US invitation last week even before he had a chance to discuss it with President Bush. Officials here said the Dec. 4 date for a resumption of Israel's bilateral talks, due to be held in Washington, did not give enough time for preparation. Behind the diplomatic snub, however, lies growing resentment at the nature of the US role in the peace process, according to Shlomo Slonim, an expert in US-Israeli relations at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. Mr. Baker's decision that the talks should start in Washington is seen as "an American attempt to decide matters of procedure that comes perilously close to deciding matters of substance," says Professor Slonim. The letter of invitation's inclusion of topics for discussion also prompted Israeli fears that "the US has clearly overstepped the bounds of go-between," Slonim adds. With Israel insisting that it negotiate directly - and alone - with the Arab parties, "when the Americans take the ball and run with it, Shamir feels that it is time to call a break," says Slonim.

Cambodia peace prospects A mob attack on a senior Khmer Rouge leader has thrown Cambodia's nascent peace process into crisis. After the attack on Khieu Samphan on Wednesday, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the country's recently restored head of state, called an emergency meeting of an interim council comprised of rival Cambodian leaders set up under a United Nations-sponsored peace plan. Prince Sihanouk, president of the 12-member Supreme National Council, urged the meeting be held in Bangkok. Mr. Samphan, former president under the Khmer Rouge's brutal rule in the 1970s, had just returned to Phnom Penh where he heads the guerrillas' delegation of the council. After Prime Minister Hun Sen quelled the assault, the Khmer Rouge official was taken to the airport by armored car and flown to Bangkok. The attack came after the Phnom Penh government had repeatedly cautioned that it might be unable to protect the Khmer Rouge leaders from Cambodians' rage. It raises questions about whether the assault was a deliberate attempt to force the Khmer Rouge, supported by China and Thailand, out of the temporary power-sharing arrangement set up under the UN peace accord as a forerunner to national elections planned for early 1993. The assault coincides with continued fighting between Phnom Penh troops and the Khmer Rouge in an effort to increase territory under their control.

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