December 3, 1997 in Nation/World

Albright To Talk With Netanyahu, Arafat

Barry Schweid Associated Press

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will hold back-to-back meetings in Europe this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Her aim is to prod the two sides into productive negotiations over the future of the West Bank. Albright made a similar attempt last month with the two Mideast leaders, but the slowdown in peacemaking persists although the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved, in principle, ceding more territory to the Palestinian Authority.

Albright this time will meet in Paris on Friday with Netanyahu and in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday with Arafat, the State Department said in an announcement Tuesday.

She already has a trip to Africa scheduled for next week and is likely to fly to Ethiopia, the first stop, directly from Geneva.

Israel’s decision to give up more land drew subdued approval Monday from the State Department. “We view the Israeli government’s decision in principle to move forward with the further redeployment as a step in the right direction,” spokesman James P. Rubin said.

“Now we are going to have to look at the substance and see how far it goes,” he said.

In a gradual ratcheting up of pressure on Israel, the White House and the State Department last month registered their impatience with the slow pace of peacemaking.

Last month, on her way to the Persian Gulf and South Asia, Albright met in London with Netanyahu and in Berne, Switzerland, with Arafat.

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