Barak and Arafat to meet

ISRAEL'S PRIME minister-elect, Ehud Barak, telephoned Yasser Arafat yesterday for their first talk since Mr Barak was elected six weeks ago.

He told the Palestinian leader he would follow in the footsteps of the murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to end the Israeli-Arab conflict and bring peace to the region. The two leaders agreed to meet shortly after Mr Barak's government takes office next week.

The two had not talked since Mr Arafat called Mr Barak to congratulate him on his 17 May election win. Mr Barak has since been criticised by the Palestinians for not making contact with Mr Arafat again.

Yesterday Mr Barak assured Mr Arafat he would conduct negotiations simultaneously with the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese, apparently trying to assuage Palestinian fears that he would move forward on the Syrian track and leave them behind. (AP)