US President Bill Clinton has decided to extend his stay at the Middle East summit in Sharm el- Sheikh past his originally scheduled midnight deadline in order to keep working toward an agreement despite little apparent progress in the talks thus far, the White House said Monday.
Clinton made the decision to remain at this Red Sea resort after an intense flurry of discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and as the seven main players in the summit joined each other for a group dinner, spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
"Our departure time is indefinite," Crowley told reporters. "Our expectation right now is to continue to work and see what we can achieve."
Clinton had planned until the dinner to return to Washington shortly after midnight (early Tuesday) but had left open the option of staying in Sharm el-Sheikh until noon Tuesday (1000 GMT).
Crowley would not say why the president had decided to stay, but noted that Clinton, after meeting three times alone with Barak and twice with Arafat in a frenetic bout of shuttle diplomacy, planned to see the Palestinian leader again after the dinner.
"We expect the leaders to continue" their work, he said, describing the dinner table conversation as "animated."
"There is an animated discussion at dinner, a lot of discussion," Crowley said.
The dinner -- hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and also attended by Jordan's King Abdullah II, UN chief Kofi Annan and European Union top diplomat Javier Solana -- marked the second time the leaders have broken bread for a meal and the third time Arafat and Barak have been in the same room together since the summit began earlier Monday -- SHARM EL-SHEIKH (AFP)
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