Arafat says he would meet Barak at summit again

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The Independent Online

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says a decision on Jerusalem's future cannot be deferred and he would be willing to attend another Middle East summit, with President Bill Clinton as host, provided a successful outcome is ensured.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says a decision on Jerusalem's future cannot be deferred and he would be willing to attend another Middle East summit, with President Bill Clinton as host, provided a successful outcome is ensured.

Arafat wants to take control of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. He turned down Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer of limited control of the Old City plus most of the West Bank and Gaza at a summit hosted by Clinton at Camp David in July.

Speaking here Thursday night after seeing Clinton at the White House, the Palestinian leader accused Barak of reneging on a pledge to withdraw Israeli forces from Palestinian towns, but said he really didn't say Barak could "go to hell" if he did not give up East Jerusalem.

"I was not referring to Barak," Arafat said. "I was referring to anyone who would suspend the peace process."

Barak, responding to a violent Palestinian uprising, has declared a time-out in peacemaking with the Palestinians

But Arafat said he was in Washington and saw Clinton on Thursday to prepare for another summit meeting with the Israeli leader.

"This is why I am here," Arafat said after a two-hour meeting with Clinton at the White House and a news conference in which he denounced Israel as the cause of violence that has shattered already enfeebled peace talks.

"I would welcome any effort to convene another summit, provided we prepare for it and ensure its success," Arafat said at a question-and-answer session sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

He stressed the agenda must include Jerusalem's future and Palestinian refugees, issues that he said cannot be deferred.

Implying Clinton would push the idea Sunday when he meets at the White House with Barak, the Palestinian leader said "President Clinton has promised to exert maximum effort" in the time he has left in office.

A July summit at the president's Camp David mountain retreat collapsed over Arafat's demand for sovereignty over east Jerusalem. Barak offered some local control to the Palestinians in parts of the Old City, which was ruled by Jordan for 19 years until it was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and united with the rest of the city.

Arafat responded testily to queries about Palestinian children being part of the confrontation with Israel. Questioned about the children by an official of the pro-Israel lobby, American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Arafat shouted: "Someone from AIPAC should have apologised for killing Palestinian children."

When the moderator, Frank Sesno, of CNN, asked at the Council of Foreign Relations session whether Palestinian children should be withdrawn from confrontation, Arafat stood up and sputtered: "I can't permit you to speak to me in that language."

Earlier, after shaking hands with Clinton and saluting him as he left, Arafat told reporters in the White House's rain-swept driveway that he had reaffirmed his commitment to making peace, and the outcome depended on the efforts exerted by Clinton.

The White House gave no indication any ground was gained toward a firm truce or the more remote goal of reopening negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

In fact, administration officials abandoned the phrase "peace process" and replaced it with "political process."

A White House spokesman, P.J. Crowley, would not say whether Clinton asked Arafat for a public statement urging Palestinian protesters to stop their rock-throwing campaign against Israelis.

But, Crowley said: "Clear statements by both leaders can only help."

"We continue to be frustrated," Crowley told reporters.

Arafat was defiant in his own exchange with reporters earlier. Thrusting at Israel, he said: "I am not the one who initiated the violence. I am not the one who is attacking Israelis. My tanks are not sieging Israeli towns. I did not order my tanks, my air force, my artillery, my heavy weapons, my navy." He interrupted his interpreter to make sure his English was conveyed as he wished.

"We are facing a very dangerous situation that is really hindering the peace process," he said.

"We are a nation with one airplane," Arafat said as he left.

On Friday, Arafat was due to consult with the U.N. Security Council, where support for the Palestinians is strong. He wants the Council to approve establishment of a force to protect the Palestinians from Israel.

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