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Clinton reviewing moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Days after the Middle East peace talks concluded in failure, President Clinton told Israeli Television that he is considering relocating the U.S. Embassy from its current site in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"I have always wanted to move our embassy to west Jerusalem. We have a designated site there," said Clinton in an interview with Israeli Television taped Thursday evening and scheduled to air Friday.
"I have not done so because I didn't want to do anything to undermine our ability to help to broker a secure and fair and lasting peace for Israelis and for Palestinians," he said. "But in light of what has happened, I've taken that decision under review, and I'll make a decision sometime between now and the end of the year on that."
The interviewer asked the president if he would consider moving the embassy even if there is no peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I think I should stand on the words I said," said Clinton. "I have always wanted to do it. I've always thought it was the right thing to do. But I didn't want to do anything to undermine the peace process ... But it's something that I have taken under review now because of the recent events."
The U.S. Congress passed a bill several years ago that called for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Since then, Clinton has used his executive authority to postpone the move, citing security concerns.
During the interview, the president also said it would be a "big mistake" if Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were to declare statehood unilaterally. The Palestinian leader has said he would declare statehood with or without a peace deal by September 13.
While Clinton would not comment on a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress that would eliminate aid to the Palestinians if they unilaterally declare statehood, he did say that there would be "consequences" to such an action.
"I think it would be a big mistake to take a unilateral action and walk away from the peace process. And if it happens, there will inevitably be consequences -- not just here, but throughout the world, and things will happen. I would review our entire relationship, including, but not limited to that," said the president.
Just as he did after the summit ended without a deal, the president indicated he believed the Palestinians were not as willing as the Israelis to make tough compromises, particularly over Jerusalem.
"I would hope that Chairman Arafat and the other leaders in the Arab world will work to prepare their public for the proposition that there can be no agreement without courage and conscience, but also honorable compromise -- that's what agreements are," said Clinton.
Finally, the president rejected any notion that his pursuit of a comprehensive peace deal is motivated by his desire to build a legacy.
"This has nothing to do with my legacy," said Clinton. "All my life, I have wanted to see peace in the Middle East, and I promised myself, when I got elected president, I would work until the last day to achieve it. This is not about me; it's about the children who live in the Middle East. It's about whether those children will be living together or living apart, whether there will be fighting or learning together."
After arriving Friday in Barrington, Rhode Island, the president was asked about the comments made Thursday.
"I meant what I said yesterday and I re-affirm it," he said.
Barak, Arafat arrive home; both vow to pursue Mideast peace
The Israeli Government's Official Website, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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