Clinton, Arafat Attempt 11th-Hour Peace Accord
Barber, Ben, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
President Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat held two rounds of talks at the White House yesterday in a last-ditch effort to stop the growing Middle East violence and set guidelines for a peace summit with Israel before Mr. Clinton leaves office.
After two hours of talks yesterday afternoon in the Oval Office, Mr. Arafat left the White House at 5 p.m., said White House spokesman P.J. Crowley. He returned at 9:30 p.m. for more talks at the president's residence.
The second meeting from the U.S. side included Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger and CIA director George J. Tenet.
There was no sign of any imminent breakthrough over the crucial issues of Palestinian refugee return and Palestinian sovereignty over the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Arabs as al-Haram al-Sharif.
Mr. Crowley described the first round of talks as "serious." He said Mr. Clinton "strongly condemned acts of terrorism in recent days" inside Israel. The two leaders also discussed "steps to end terrorism."
"I can say nothing," Arafat aide Saeb Erekat said upon leaving the White House after the first round of talks.
Mr. Arafat left the talks to rest from his all-night flight from the Middle East while Mr. Clinton needed to prepare for a dinner in honor of his wife, said Mr. Crowley.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Barak expressed skepticism over the possibility of a peace pact.
"The risk of war is greater than it has been during the last three years," Mr. Barak told public television.
In a statement issued by his office, Mr. Barak said "it will be impossible to sign an agreement within the next few weeks," adding that Israel's army will "continue concentrating on vigorous counterterrorist activity in the coming weeks."
"Prime Minister Barak believes that Chairman Arafat intends to work for the internationalization of the conflict beyond the Clinton administration's term in office by continuing to encourage terrorism."
Continuing violence left eight Palestinians and four Israelis wounded yesterday in a series of violent confrontations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.
Early yesterday, a Palestinian farm worker was killed by Israeli soldiers, and two Israeli soldiers were wounded by bomb explosions in the Gaza Strip. A day earlier, a car bomb wounded 20 persons north of Tel Aviv.
An Arafat adviser said in an editorial that Mr. Clinton would fail to win a legacy by forcing Arab agreement to his proposals. …