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U.S.-Israeli Tie Will Be Priority, Lieberman Says


CHICAGO — Speaking to a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman pledged Sunday that a Gore-Lieberman administration would be dedicated to the Middle East peace process.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee told leaders of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, assembled in Chicago for a national summit, that Al Gore would continue his long history of support for Israel if he is elected president.

"For two decades, Al Gore has worked to strengthen the U.S.-Israeli relationship," Lieberman told about 200 AIPAC leaders gathered at a downtown Chicago hotel.

"Just as the quest for peace has been a priority for the Clinton-Gore administration because it is so clearly in the strategic and moral interests of the United States of America, the quest for peace in the Middle East will be a priority for a Gore-Lieberman administration," he said.

Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, also affirmed his support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"He [Gore] and I both believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths, and that the United States embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem, hopefully soon as part of a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians," he added.

Several American administrations have avoided moving the embassy to Jerusalem out of concern that the relocation would preclude a negotiated settlement governing the future of a city that is considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims. But in July, President Clinton said he was considering such a move.

Lieberman spoke to the group at the end of a weekend trip to Chicago, where he spent the Sabbath with his wife, Hadassah, and attended two fund-raisers Saturday night with Gore that helped raise $2 million for the Democratic National Committee.

Today, the senator from Connecticut plans to campaign in his home state, where he is also on the ballot for reelection to the U.S. Senate. While Connecticut law allows Lieberman to run for both offices simultaneously, he has drawn some criticism in the state from those who say he should bow out of the Senate race.

Lieberman has said he will run for both seats because pulling out of the Senate race would leave too little time to select another Democrat to run.

If Lieberman wins both elections, Republican Gov. John Rowland will appoint someone to fill the seat until a special election can be held. Though Rowland would likely appoint a Republican, Democratic leaders say a special election would give them more time to field a Democratic candidate to run for Lieberman's seat.

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