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Clinton rules out quick trip to Egypt for Mideast summit

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October 12, 2000 


WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bill Clinton appeared Wednesday to rule out a quick trip to Egypt for a Mideast summit, saying his most important priority was to stop the violence between Israelis and Palestinians and get the peace process back on track.

"My goal is to stop people dying and then get them back together," Clinton said in a question and answer session with reporters in the White House Rose Garden.

"We've had a couple good days," the president said. "People are really trying. And we're trying to put a way forward that will increase the chances that things will stay calm and more peaceful."

The White House had floated the idea of a Clinton-attended summit Sunday at Sharm el-Sheik, a Red Sea resort, but the Arabs do not want to hold such a meeting until after an Oct. 21 Arab League meeting in Cairo.

Clinton seemed to accept that judgment, saying he could do a lot by telephone. He said he spoke Wednesday morning with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is trying to mediate a truce.

"We don't need just another meeting," Clinton said. "We need to know what we're going to do and how were going to do it."

He said that he or Secretary of State Madeleine Albright might go to the Middle East eventually if that would help.

"I wouldn't overreact to the fact that there won't be a big meeting imminently in Egypt," the president told reporters. "I don't think you should overread that as a reflection that either the Israelis or the Palestinians do not want to continue the peace process."

Remarking on 12 days of violence, Clinton said, "I think everybody is shocked how quickly and how deeply it got out of hand. And I think the most important thing now is to restore calm."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rejected Clinton's proposal for Egypt to host a summit, saying Wednesday that Israel should first stop threatening Palestinians and Arabs.

"Before such a summit can be convened an appropriate climate should be achieved through an Israeli troop withdrawal from the Palestinian territories," Mubarak said in a letter to Clinton made public by Egyptian Information Minister Safwat el-Sherif.

"Israel should also stop its threats and ultimatums to the Palestinian Authority and any other Arab country," Mubarak said in the letter. He called on Israel not to repeat its "aggression" against Arab holy sites in east Jerusalem and to accept an international inquiry into two weeks of violence that have killed more than 80 people, mostly Palestinians.

"And because Israel has not accepted these points, Egypt regrets it cannot convene this summit on its territories," Mubarak told Clinton.

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