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ARAFAT OFFERS JOINT SECURITY FOR WEST BANK

Yasser Arafat is ready to cooperate with Israel in fighting Islamic militants because he wants to ease Israeli security concerns and speed up a troop withdrawal from the West Bank, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday.

In a nod to Israel, Arafat proposed Israeli-Palestinian security patrols in the West Bank, said Nissim Zvili, secretary-general of Israel's ruling Labor Party, who met with Arafat on Monday.

"I can say that Arafat understood very well that one of the obstacles . . . is the terrorist attacks," Zvili told the Associated Press. "It is for me a very important change in his behavior."

Israeli troops in two of the West Bank's largest towns have been told to prepare to evacuate their bases by June, Israel television reported Tuesday.

Israel's second channel said the soldiers in Nablus and Jenin were told in internal briefings that they would withdraw to bases three miles away.

The Yedioth Ahronoth daily said army planners have put together a detailed proposal for a gradual pullout from seven West Bank towns. The plan will be presented at withdrawal talks in Tel Aviv.

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