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    The new Israeli Defence Minister, Mr. Ezer Weizman, travelled to the occupied territories on the?

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    The new Israeli Defence Minister, Mr. Ezer Weizman, travelled to the occupied territories on the West Bank of the River Jordan on Monday (27 June) on his first official visit to the area.

    SYNOPSIS: Israel has occupied the West Bank territories since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and has repeatedly stated that it would not return the territories to Arab rule. Mr. Weizman's first visit on Monday was to Hebron, scene of some of the worst clashes between Israeli security forces and Arabs protesting at the continued occupation last year. Several people were killed and dozens injured in the disturbances. Mr. Weizman was asked how he found conditions in Hebron since the rioting of the previous year.

    Mr. Weizman's next stop was at Kiryat Arba, where he was greeted by cheering, singing and chanting from local residents. The Israelis already have a number of settlements in the West Bank, mostly manned by soldiers, but with some civilian agricultural communities. The continuing Israeli presence on former Arab lands has been one of the main obstacles in the path of a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East.

    The United States announced on Monday that it saw an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a durable Middle East peace, and in reply, the Israeli Foreign Ministry pledged its willingness to negotiate all disputed issues in the Middle East conflict. In Nablus, later in his visit, Mr. Weizman had talks with the local council members.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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