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Clinton Meets Separately with Barak & Arafat.

By David Gollust (VOA-United Nations) & IsraelWire

President Clinton has held separate meetings at a New York hotel with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in an effort to conclude a final status Middle East peace accord before the parties' Sept. 13 deadline.

The urgency of the talks was underscored by Clinton, who in his speech to the UN Millennium summit said the time is now for the parties to take risks for peace and that there is not a moment to lose.

The talks are stalled over the political future of Jerusalem. In his UN address, Barak called the city Israel's eternal capital but said his government is ready for a compromise arrangement that reflects Christian, Muslim - and Palestinian -- bonds to the city.

"We envision a peace that will preserve the vital interests and the dignity of all sides but no side can achieve 100 per cent of its dreams, if we are to succeed. My government has shown in negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians, as well as in our pullout from Lebanon, that it can make painful decisions for the sake peace."

The Israeli leader warned against unilateral actions that he said could "obliterate" prospects for peace - an apparent reference to the Palestinian threats to declare statehood next Wednesday, whether or not it is part of a peace accord with Israel.

Arafat acknowledged in his UN message that some Arab and other governments are urging the Palestinians to postpone the statehood move, and that a decision on the issue will be made by the Palestinian Central Council, which is to convene Saturday in Gaza.

Heard through an interpreter, Arafat reiterated that the Palestinians want Jerusalem to be an open city but with Palestinian control of mostly-Arab East Jerusalem.

"We have agreed to share the city, and eliminate barriers and borders therein - in contrast to attempts at monopolizing it - as a response to exclusivity and rejection of our rights. At the same time we remain committed to our national rights over East Jerusalem, capital of our state and shelter of our sacred sites, as well as our rights on the Christian and Islamic holy sites."

Clinton urged world leaders - whatever their past attitude toward the Mideast parties - to help them toward an agreement ending more than 50 years of conflict.

Administration officials said that while no three-way Clinton-Arafat-Barak meeting was expected, U.S. diplomats would shuttle between the Israeli and Palestinian teams at the Waldorf Hotel in central New York in an attempt to narrow the differences.

Setting the stage for a deal in New York City, U.S. officials indicated that both Israel and the PLO Authority are closer to a deal than they were at Camp David II, with both parties now ready to make compromises.

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Comment:Clinton Meets Separately with Barak & Arafat.
Author:Gollust, David
Publication:Israel Faxx
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Sep 7, 2000
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