Mubarak Meets Chirac, Warns Time is Short for Middle East Peace
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Friday on a visit to France that time was running out for a Middle East peace accord amid diplomatic efforts to get Israeli-Palestinian negotiations back on track ahead of a mid-September deadline.
Mubarak said he supported "total Palestinian authority over the holy sites and (certain) quarters in east Jerusalem, it being understood that the Jewish quarter and the Wailing Wall are left to Israel."
His French counterpart Jacques Chirac said "we have the feeling that we are close to reaching our goal, but that we need just a little bit more effort from both sides to achieve this peace," said Chirac.
"We bring along our (France's) contribution together with our American friends, and hope that the month to come (September) will be decisive in achieving peace," Chirac added.
Mubarak said a report that Egypt had accepted an American-inspired formula that would divide sovereignty over east Jerusalem was "baseless."
At the Camp David summit in July, Israel agreed for the first time that some Arab quarters of Jerusalem could pass to Palestinian control, or even sovereignty.
In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper, Mubarak warned: "For peace, it's now or never."
"The heart of the problem is Jerusalem," he added.
There has been a frenzy of diplomatic activity over recent weeks in an effort to get the peace process back on track ahead of the September 13th deadline.
Mubarak has met Palestinian President Yasser Arafat six times in recent weeks. Chirac also discussed the problems with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak during a long telephone conversation earlier Friday and is due to meet Arafat next week at the United Nations Millenium Summit in New York.
US President Bill Clinton is also to hold separate meetings with Barak and Arafat on Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit.
The peace process hangs largely on the status of Jerusalem, Mubarak said in his interview with Le Figaro.
Despite the differences that still divide Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Mubarak maintained an agreement could still be struck.
Chirac hailed Egypt's contribution to the peace process, saying it was a "wise voice, and along with our American friends, it provides an important contribution to find a solution to the peace process." -- PARIS (AFP)
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