Palestinian officials came out Wednesday in favor of a US-sponsored peace summit with the Israelis at the end of July, following more talks.
Palestinian president Yasser Arafat rejected a US offer to host the summit to hammer out a framework agreement for peace with the Israelis in mid-July, a Palestinian official said.
But Arafat was not opposed in principle to a summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak chaired by US President Bill Clinton, other officials said.
One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity after a two-hour meeting between Arafat and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in this West Bank town, said Washington wanted to announce a summit on July 15, but Arafat refused.
"We welcome the decisions President Clinton will make" about a summit, the Palestinian President had said earlier during a press conference with Albright, who is to advise Clinton on whether the two sides are close enough to make holding the summit worthwhile.
Palestinian international cooperation minister Nabil Shaath went further, saying that a summit could take place at the end of July after more negotiations with the Israelis.
"We are still not agreed in any major way on any of the issues," he said. "There has been progress and continuation of the negotiations will help do that and I think will give President Clinton the chance to evaluate better when the summit should take place."
"We're still far apart and we would like to see a summit held in the White House presided over by President Clinton to be successful."
Hassan Abdel Rahman, the PLO's representative to Washington also told reporters after the meeting that "there will be further talks and then it will be decided when the summit will be."
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said more talks were necessary, which could start after the US national holiday on July 4th.
"We feel that there is a need for further negotiations between the two teams hoping to bridge the gaps," Erakat told CNN television.
"And after two weeks or three weeks of negotiations, which may commence the first week of July, after the 4th of July, we hope that President Clinton will be in a position to declare the next step, whether the gaps have been bridged, to enable us to convene a summit." - RAMALLAH (AFP)
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