Arab countries halt talks

SYRIA and Jordan confirmed yesterday that Arab negotiating teams had cut short peace talks with Israel in Washington following the Heron mosque massacre.

But, confirming remarks by United States officials, a Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the move did not mean the whole two-year-old peace process was over.

``The decision applies only to this session,'' the spokesman said when asked whether the peace negotiations with Israel were finished. ``We have taken a unanimous decision to stop the informal consultations with Israel in support of our Palestinian brothers and in protest against the ugly massacre,'' a Jordanian Foreign Ministry official said in Amman.

The current round of negotiations was due to last until March 2. An Israeli official said Israel was disappointed at the Arab decision.

The decision by Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon to cut short the talks came as Palestinians were weighing a US invitation to move their separate talks with Israel on implementing limited Palestinian self-rule in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho to Washington.

The Syrian spokesman said no progress was made in the negotiations, which resumed in Washington on Jan. 24 after a four-month break, and Israel was to blame.

Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinians opened talks with Israel in Madrid in 1991 under the auspices of the United States and Russia.

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