Camp David Talks Intensify before Wednesday ‘Deadline’
By Munir K. Nasser
As the Camp David summit talks enter their seventh day, the pace of the discussions between the Israeli and Palestinians has intensified. According to White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, there have been two straight, very long nights between the sides, working through the difficult issues.
Lockhart refused to confirm that the talks might be extended beyond Wednesday, the scheduled departure date for President Clinton to go to Japan. “I'm not going to get into speculative questions. The President has a schedule to keep concerning the G-8, which is a very important meeting. And that schedule hasn't changed,” he said.
Lockhart said the plan is to complete this process before the President goes. “I think both leaders and the delegations understand the time constraints we're under and are working through these issues in a way that this can get done before the President has to leave,” he said.
According to press reports in Washington quoting an Administration official, the assumption was that it would not be clear until Tuesday whether the talks are "going in the right direction or not." The White House then will decide whether the talks were ripe enough to warrant keeping President Clinton at Camp David and sending Vice President Al Gore to the meeting in Okinawa.
Lockhart has been saying in his daily briefings that Clinton would go to Okinawa. But Clinton administration officials have said in private that the Okinawa trip was not necessarily written in stone.
The Clinton Administration came under criticism because Clinton broke his own ground rules of the news blackout and discussed Camp David with New York Daily News. In defending his President, Lockhart said the interview was given because it “was an extraordinary circumstance.”
He insisted that the interview didn't give very much away about the talks.
He told reporters, “You know, we live in a world where the National Enquirer mentality has hijacked journalism and that has become an issue in New York. And these are scurrilous and untrue charges and the President wanted to set that straight.
Lockhart warned reporters not to read too much into stories published in the press about the Camp David talks. “I have cautioned you from the beginning to be careful not to read too much into the discussions that go on beyond the gates of Camp David. We were just talking before we came out here about the fact that there's now a report that one side is ready to leave at the end of the day, and yesterday there was a report that that same side was ready to stay two weeks. So I think I'll stay somewhere in the middle,” he said – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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