UN Chief Holds Talks with Arafat
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan held talks with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Thursday as part of a Middle East tour to discuss peace moves and a new Israeli-Lebanese border, reported Reuters.
Annan met Arafat after holding a second round of talks on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who said he would pursue peace with the Palestinians despite a government crisis, said AFP.
"We are determined to move forward on the peace process, on the Palestinian track and others," Barak told a joint news conference with Annan in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
"We are committed to the real mission the people of Israel put upon us, to put an end to the conflict of 100 years," he said.
Barak appeared close to overcoming the coalition crisis when three Meretz party ministers resigned, removing an obstacle to the return of the linchpin Shas party to the government, added AFP.
US envoy Dennis Ross was expected to hold talks in the region on Thursday to try to bring together Israelis and Palestinians before a September target date for a peace treaty, said Reuters.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is scheduled to return to the Middle East next week to try to narrow land-for-peace gaps and set the stage for a possible summit to be attended by Barak, Arafat and US President Bill Clinton, added Reuters.
Israel and the Palestinians are trying to resolve the most difficult issues at the heart of their conflict -- Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, borders and Jewish settlements.
Annan said a Middle East at peace would bring prosperity, the agency said.
His tour including Iran, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan also has been dominated by efforts to stabilize a redrawn border after Israel withdrew its troops from south Lebanon in May.
Annan is scheduled to visit Syria on Thursday, said Reuters - (Several Sources)
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