Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office quickly denied Tuesday a public radio report that he would meet US President Bill Clinton and Palestinian president Yasser Arafat at a summit in Washington next week.
Earlier Tuesday, US Secretary Madeleine Albright said Palestinian president Yasser Arafat will meet US President Bill Clinton on June 14th, after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume near Washington next week.
She made the announcement at a joint press conference with Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah following a meeting of some two and a half hours aimed at advancing efforts to clinch a peace deal by a September deadline.
"I'm pleased to say that chairman Arafat has accepted President Clinton's invitation to come to Washington on Wednesday June 14 and that negotiations among the negotiators will begin there in the region at the beginning of next week," she said.
The peace talks broke off last week without any reported progress on the main issues dividing the two sides, particularly the fate of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, final borders of a future Palestinian state and Jewish settlement in the occupied territories.
Albright has warned that the "moment of truth" was fast approaching and is pushing for the two sides to overcome their differences enough to make a three-day summit with Clinton, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak worthwhile.
"President Clinton and I will continue to do everything we can to help the Palestinians and Israelis reach this goal," she said, referring to the September 13 target date for a comprehensive peace deal.
Albright is due to meet with Barak again on Tuesday as well as Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.
Asked about Israeli calls for the Palestinians to show greater flexibility, Arafat said: "Our position has been very clear since the beginning and we have demonstrated over and over many flexibilities.
"We are only asking for one thing, we are asking for the faithful and precise implementation of all previous agreements," he said.
A Palestinian official described the Arafat-Albright meeting as "very tense and difficult."
Albright said she was aware that the past few weeks "have been difficult for the Palestinians," without elaborating.
"I know that there are those who say negotiations cannot succeed in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations. Those voices belong to the past, indeed they seek to perpetuate the fears of the past rather than building on the hope and promise of the future," she said.
Popular Palestinian frustration over the slow progress of the peace talks erupted into a week of deadly Israeli-Palestinian violence in the occupied territories last month - RAMALLAH (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )