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CRISES IN THE MIDEAST

Hopes for Summit Focus on a Halt to Violence

Talks: Barak says 'scars on collective psyche' may result from bloodshed. Key Arafat aide sees peace slipping away.

October 16, 2000|LISA GETTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — As President Clinton prepared to fly to Egypt to take part in the hastily arranged Mideast summit, key participants said Sunday that they had low expectations the talks will lead to a lasting peace accord.

But they expressed hope that the violence that has claimed 100 lives in recent weeks could end, at least temporarily.

"I believe that an end to violence could be accomplished," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in a televised interview on ABC's "This Week."

At the same time, Barak acknowledged that "the imprint of the last few weeks might leave some scars on the collective psyche" of both Israelis and Palestinians, scars that will not make it easy to resume peace talks.

Barak and top U.S. officials said they believe that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has not done enough to halt the recent cycle of bloodshed.

The escalating violence was vividly illustrated by last week's mob killing of two Israeli reserve soldiers. Israel retaliated by attacking key Arafat strongholds in Gaza City and the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Barak said he believes that Arafat "deliberately launched" the violence "to attract the attention of the world."

While not assigning blame so directly, both Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and White House National Security Advisor Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger implored Arafat to "do more" to rein in stone-throwing Palestinians.

"I think it's incumbent on Chairman Arafat to do everything in his power to try to stop the violence," Berger said on the NBC news program "Meet the Press."

Albright, who appeared on ABC's "This Week" before leaving for the Middle East, said: "Arafat has the responsibility for controlling the violence. We think he should do more."

But the Palestinians' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said on the same program that U.S. and Israeli officials are overestimating Arafat's ability to control events in the streets.

"It's not two armies that are clashing," Erekat said.

Erekat was pessimistic that the summit will ease the distrust between the Palestinians and Israelis.

"I really don't want to raise anyone's expectations," he said.

And Erekat warned that any chance of peace will be irreparably harmed if Barak forms a coalition government with Israel's right-wing Likud Party leader, Ariel Sharon. Sharon's Sept. 28 visit to Jerusalem's holiest site--sacred to both Jews and Muslims--triggered the recent violence.

"If he brings Sharon into his Cabinet, Israelis and Palestinians will be losers for a long time to come," Erekat said. "This [peace] process is slipping outside our fingers like sand. And we need to do something to stop it."

Sharon, who also appeared on ABC, said he hopes today's summit will "bring an end to the bloodshed." But he made it clear that he opposes the concessions Barak has been willing to make in the past.

"We are committed for peace. But it should be a different line, not a danger to the future of Israel," he said.

Dennis B. Ross, the longtime U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, urged both sides to use restraint.

"There is no question that the Palestinians have to do more on their side to prevent the points of confrontation," he told Fox Television's "Fox News Sunday" program. "And what we would like to see, if they can do that, is that the Israelis then restrain their use of live fire."

The emergency summit is scheduled to begin today at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. Participants include U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Clinton, Barak, Arafat, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II.

Before his midafternoon departure for Egypt, Clinton attended services at Foundry Methodist Church in Washington. The congregation there prayed that he will be able to help bring peace to the Middle East.

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