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Clinton will convene Israeli-Palestinian peace summit
From staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Bill Clinton said Wednesday that he will host a Middle East peace summit next week between Israelis and Palestinians at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington.
The sessions will begin Tuesday at Camp David, the site where Egypt and Israel hammered out a historic peace agreement in 1978.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak sought British support as his peace talks with Palestinians approached a decisive phase.
Barak, on a lightning visit to Britain and France, said he pressed Prime Minister Tony Blair to discourage Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from unilaterally declaring an independent state later this year if talks break down.
"I hope of course that everything will be decided in negotiation," Barak told reporters after talks in Blair's official London residence in Downing Street.
"I made it clear...that if unilateral steps will be taken by one side, we will have to respond with our own unilateral steps," he added, without giving details.
Blair did not speak to reporters and British officials were not immediately available to comment on Barak's request.
Britain backs a European Union statement last year which called for early establishment of a Palestinian state through negotiations, but with no Israeli veto.
Barak was due to fly on to France to meet President Jacques Chirac on the next leg of a journey aimed at rallying European support before crucial talks designed to hammer out a final settlement with the Palestinians.
He said it was important for Israel that Blair and Chirac, whose country has just assumed the EU presidency, "be acquainted with the nuance of our positions and our perceptions of the process."
Israel and the Palestinians are committed to reaching a final peace settlement by September 13, but remain far apart on key issues, including borders and the status of Jerusalem.
Arafat controls a patchwork of territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, but has promised Palestinians that his talks with Israel will deliver an independent state in all of the West Bank and Gaza with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital.
Barak, who took office a year ago this month, has reportedly offered Arafat 80 percent of the occupied lands while Israel would rent or annex the rest -- and keep all of Jerusalem which Israel regards as its capital.
Arafat has promised to declare an independent Palestinian state this year whether or not a settlement is reached. He met Chirac last week to press France to recognize the future state.
Barak said he discussed with Blair the death of Syria's President Hafez al-Assad and the succession of his son Bashar. "It seems to develop in a stable way," he said.
He also condemned the sentences passed in Iran on Saturday against 10 Iranian Jews convicted of spying for Israel. "I believe that all world leaders will do the most to bring about the release of these prisoners," he said.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had been due to make the first visit to Iran this week since Tehran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran said the visit was postponed because of Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi's work schedule.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Arafat, Clinton confer while Israeli-Palestinian talks stumble
Camp David Accords
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