Israeli FM Doubts Middle East Peace will be a Priority For New US President
Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said Wednesday he doubted that the Middle East peace process would be a priority under the new US administration, likely to be headed by Texas governor George W. Bush.
"Both we and the Palestinians have great doubts the next president, apparently George Bush, will view the Palestinian issue as the center of his foreign policy in the Middle East,," he told army radio.
"That is why (Palestinian leader) Yasser Arafat has told President Bill Clinton personally that he had an interest in making the maximum effort to seize the chances for an accord before the end of his mandate," Ben Ami said.
"There is a good chance that President Clinton will come to the region because he is very close to the Palestinian issue," he added.
Clinton is due to leave office on January 20, with the Republican Bush seen likely to finally emerge the winner in the exhausting election battle against Vice President Al Gore.
Peace-making in the Middle East has all but collapsed under the wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has claimed the lives of 327 people over almost 11 weeks, most of them Palestinians.
Negotiations had anyway been stalled since the collapse of the Clinton-hosted Camp David peace summit in July largely over the fate of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem and its holy sites.
Arafat met US Middle East troubleshooter Dennis Ross overnight in Morocco but his spokesman Marwan Kanafani said there was no real progress.
Israel's caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who resigned Sunday to seek a new mandate to forge peace with the Palestinians, spoke by telephone with Clinton on Monday about efforts to revive the negotiations -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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