Weizman huddles with Clinton about Camp David-style summit

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WASHINGTON — President Clinton wants to push Israeli-Palestinian negotiations forward but fears "getting burned" again by the parties if he gets personally involved, Israeli President Ezer Weizman said Tuesday.

Following a short Oval Office meeting with Clinton, Weizman told reporters that the two discussed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal for conducting an intensive Camp David-style summit. They also talked about other variations for fast-track negotiations over final status and Clinton's continued interest in such possibilities.

Clinton is wary of taking any dramatic step on Mideast peace without adequate assurances that it would succeed, Weizman acknowledged. But the U.S. leader was also surprised to hear that the 1978 Camp David talks followed a difficult, "frustrating" period of Israeli-Egyptian talks, Weizman said.

The session between Weizman and Clinton occurred hours before Netanyahu held a middle-of-the-night meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat aimed at restarting the peace process.

Weizman told reporters that he encouraged Clinton to remain personally involved, just as a soldier desires to return to his unit after he recovers from his wounds. Weizman added that he believes the administration's intensive involvement in the peace process will continue.

In addition to their Oval Office meeting, the two presidents met for three hours on Monday night at a White House dinner Clinton hosted in Weizman's honor. Clinton also met for three hours with leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The group asked the president not to put undue pressure on either Netanyahu or Arafat.

Clinton later told Weizman he would go "to the North Pole" if it would help bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace. But Weizman said Clinton did not ask him to deliver any messages to Netanyahu.

Asked whether the administration trusts Netanyahu and Arafat, Weizman said that the United States believes it "has a problem" with both of them.

During the White House session, Vice President Al Gore expressed reservations about Israel's lobbying in Congress for sanctions against Russia due to its support for Iran's nuclear program. Gore was apparently referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has made Iran a major focus of its work on Capitol Hill.

Clinton's special envoy on the Russia-Iran issue, Frank Wisner, met here Tuesday with Israeli Embassy officials on the administration's efforts to deter Moscow's transfer of nuclear technology to Teheran.

Clinton and Weizman did not discuss convicted spy Jonathan Pollard's case or Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's request that Israel agree to a "time-out" in settlement construction.

Other stops in Weizman's four-day U.S. tour included a ceremony to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Maryland and meetings with Albright, congressional leaders, and World Bank president James Wolfensohn.