Arafat Meets US Envoy ahead of Albright Visit
Palestinian president Yasser Arafat met US Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, Monday in the West Bank town of Ramallah, ahead of regional tour by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Since his arrival Thursday, Ross has been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to prepare for the Albright trip.
Monday's meeting came a day after the Palestinian president gave a speech in the West Bank town of Nablus, saying a Palestinian state would be declared "in a few weeks," even without a deal with Israel.
Those comments were strongly criticized by Israeli Foreign Minister, David Levy, who said Arafat seemed not to want an agreement with Israel.
During her trip, Albright will be trying to work out whether the Israeli and Palestinian positions on the main issues of contention are sufficiently close to allow for a three-way summit to be organized for next month in the United States, with Arafat, President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Barak is pressing for the summit to go ahead, but the Palestinians say the gap between the two sides is still too wide to have a chance of success.
The goal of the summit would be to come up with a framework agreement, setting out the main lines of a peace agreement for which the two sides have given themselves a deadline of September 13th - RAMALLAH (AFP)
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