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Israel Tries To Arrange Summit

September 23, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called Yasser Arafat on Saturday, a day after the Palestinian leader rebuffed efforts by Israel’s prime minister to arrange a two-way summit.

Arafat does not object to a meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Barak, but wants assurances that it will produce results, said a senior Palestinian official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said Israel wants to arrange a meeting as soon as possible. Barak has little time left to try to conclude a peace treaty. An increasingly hostile parliament has threatened to topple him when it reconvenes in a month.

In her phone call, Albright assured Arafat that the United States is making every effort to break the deadlock in the peace talks, said Arafat spokesman Nabil Aburdeneh.

Palestinian officials said Albright did not refer to a possible Arafat-Barak meeting in her conversation with Arafat.

The United States is to present compromise proposals to both sides. The document was initially expected by this weekend, but Palestinian officials said it might not be delivered before Wednesday.

The most difficult issue remains the future of Jerusalem, particularly control over holy shrines. The Palestinians have rejected several compromise proposals, including awarding sovereignty over a key site sacred to Muslims and Jews to the U.N. Security Council.

The Palestinians insist on full sovereignty in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, where the major holy sites are located, while Israel has said it is willing to consider compromise.

One idea has been to sign an agreement on other core issues _ borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees _ but postpone discussion of Jerusalem. However, the Palestinians fear this would give Israel more time to build Jewish neighborhoods in disputed areas of the city.

``We are not willing to delay any issue,″ Aburdeneh said. ``Either the agreement is comprehensive or there is no agreement.″

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