Nativity Church Standoff Talks Stalled

ROME (Reuters) - Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to try to resolve a month-long standoff at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity have stalled but are not over, a spokesman for the Franciscan order said on Monday.
"They are at a stalemate," Father David Jaeger, spokesman for Franciscan custodians of the Holy Land sites, told Reuters.
"It had been understood that Israel required seven (Palestinian gunmen) to leave, but at the last moment they upped the number to 13," he said, adding that he had been updated about negotiations within the past two or three hours.
"The talks aren't over. As of this moment we have no information that it is really over yet," he added.
Sources close to the negotiations had said an agreement was imminent that would send Palestinian gunmen to the Gaza Strip and Italy after five weeks surrounded by troops at the church, built on the spot Christians revere as Jesus's birthplace.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Washington that a deal was close.
The gunmen were among 200 people who took cover in the church on April 2 when Israeli forces entered Bethlehem during a West Bank offensive. The Israeli assault followed Palestinian suicide attacks against Israeli targets.


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