There is a possibility that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat might meet in Washington next week if there has been progress in talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, reported Haaretz newspaper, quoting a US official.
A spokesman at the White House said that teams of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators might meet in Washington in the coming days.
US President Bill Clinton, who had an hour-long phone conversation with Arafat on Saturday, is apparently encouraged by the latest direct contacts, reported AFP.
It added that Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Gilad Sher, head of Barak's office, met Saturday for three hours with Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erekat, Mohammed Dahlan and Yasser Abd Rabbo.
The present contacts, Ben-Ami said, were aimed at reducing the level of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and renewing peace negotiations, said the agency.
Erakat told AFP Saturday that the Palestinians want a summit with Israel and the United States to reach an accord on the final status of the Palestinian territories.
"If there are negotiations, they must be held in a summit aimed at finishing what was started at the Camp David summit," Erakat said, alluding to the failed meeting in July of Arafat, Barak and Clinton.
In the meantime, Ben-Ami denied reports that the Americans had submitted a proposal whereby Israel would grant the Palestinians full control of al-Haram al-Sharif in exchange for the Palestinians giving up the right of return for refugees, said Haaretz.
Former Israeli foreign minister, David Levy, attacked the latest efforts to reach an agreement, accusing Barak of trying to cut a deal "at any price" before the upcoming elections, said the paper.
Barak, Levy charged, was threatening Israel's vital interests and was driven solely by narrow political interests -- (Several Sources)
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