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Clinton Hails Mideast Peace Deal

September 3, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton said Friday that lasting peace in the Middle East ``is now a step closer″ after the conclusion of an Israeli-Palestinian deal for a further Israeli pullback from the West Bank.

``This is truly a new beginning,″ the president said in a written statement.

His remarks came as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright helped orchestrate the long-sought accord between Israel and the Palestinians. The agreement will be signed Saturday.

``I am extremely pleased that the leaders of Israel and the PLO have reached an agreement that will allow them to resume implementation of the Wye River accords and restart permanent status talks on an accelerated basis,″ the president said.

He congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ``for their vision in seizing this opportunity. It shows that when both sides are willing to work together, their fundamental requirements can be met, confidence can be built and the process can move forward.″

He also thanked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for facilitating the agreement.

``A lasting, just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is now a step closer,″ the president said. ``The Israelis and Palestinians are doing their part to bring it about. We must do ours. Today, I call on the Congress to fund fully the commitments we made when the Wye accords were first signed.″

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