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Gore: US Sees Barak Pushing Peace

May 24, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States is confident Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak can help advance the Middle East peace process, Vice President Al Gore told a pro-Israel lobbying group Sunday.

Gore called Barak, who defeated the more hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, ``an immensely credible voice in support of peace.″

Without going into specifics, Gore said he believes Israel and the Arabs ``are ready for the kind of hard but mutual steps that make for peace.″

Gore said the United States is committed to maintaining Israel’s military edge, but that a lasting peace must take into account the interests of everyone in the Middle East. He said Israel must keep secure borders while letting the Palestinians determine their own future.

Addressing the annual conference of the politically influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Gore pledged that the United States would look out for Israel on the world stage. Condemning the ``Israel-bashing that goes on at the U.N. and other international forums,″ Gore said Washington will boycott the Fourth Geneva Convention, a U.N.-sponsored conference that seeks to stop Israeli settlement in the territories it occupies.

``Our special relationship with Israel is unshakable,″ Gore said. ``It is ironclad, eternal and absolute. That is not a theory, a proposition, or a preference; it is a core principle of American foreign policy.″

Gore invoked the Jewish experience to defend the administration’s Kosovo policy. While cautioning that ethnic cleansing does not fully compare to the Holocaust, Gore said the conflict in Yugoslavia brings back images of the Nazi era.

``If we have learned any lesson from the Holocaust, we must respond,″ Gore said.

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