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Clinton To Meet With Syrian Leader

March 20, 2000

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ President Clinton said Monday that he would meet with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Geneva next week to try to get a Syria-Israel peace process ``back on track.″

Clinton said he would make the stop on his way home from his six-day visit to South Asia.

He said such a meeting was ``the next logical step.″

While saying he didn’t want to ``unduly raise expectations,″ Clinton told reporters, ``I think this is the appropriate thing for me to do to get this back on track.″

Clinton confirmed the visit during a joint news conference with the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina.

Earlier, White House officials said such a visit was under consideration. Asked about it directly, Clinton said, ``I do intend to do that ... I do intend to go to Switzerland to meet with President Assad.″

The meeting was scheduled to take place Sunday morning.

Peace negotiations between Israel and Syria resumed in December after a lapse of more than three years. Clinton made frequent trips from Washington to Shepherdstown, W.Va., to husband a week of inconclusive talks between Israeli President Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.

Israel and Syria were supposed to return to the United States for another round in January, but Syria abruptly scrapped the visit.

Clinton said that the United States had worked very hard to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ``and they’re doing very very well.″

Now, he suggested, it was time to apply a similar effort to the suspended Syria-Israeli talks.

``We’ll just have to see what comes out of the talks,″ Clinton said of his meeting with Assad.

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