Barak's meeting hints at success

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The Independent Online
THE NEW Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, ended a second day of talks in Washington yesterday, without heralding a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process, but establishing a new mood of confidence that success could be imminent.

He met the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and the Defense Secretary, William Cohen, then flew to New York. He returns to Washington tomorrow for a further meeting with President Bill Clinton.

Mr Barak repeated Israel's "commitment to abide by international agreements signed by our government, including Wye" - the accord signed in the US last autumn - "and our determination to move forward on all tracks".

Ms Albright had hosted the breakfast meeting at her Washington home, an unusual gesture that set a new tone for US-Israeli relations after the coolness between Washington and Mr Barak's predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr Barak and his wife, Nava, had spent the night at the presidential retreat at Camp David with the Clintons. Hillary Clinton had taken time out from her latest campaign swing through New York State to revert to her role as first lady.

The stay at Camp David was seen as another gesture towards Mr Barak, and a reminder of the accord reached there 21 years ago between President Carter, the Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, and Mr Barak's predecessor - like himself, a warrior-President - Menachem Begin.

The evening discussion was described as a brainstorming session on how the stalled Arab-Israeli talks might be revived. Mr Barak had told reporters he was prepared for "a painful compromise" with Syria over the Golan Heights.

"It takes two to tango," he said. "I'm ready. The arena is ready. Maybe the dancing instructor is ready. We have to find the opportunity and begin." But he stressed: "Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital."

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