WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a high-stakes bid to bring peace to the Middle East, President Clinton announced Wednesday that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will meet with him next week at the Camp David presidential retreat.
''I have concluded that this is the best way, indeed it is the only way, to move forward,'' the president said.
With six months left in his term, Clinton hopes to make a Middle East peace agreement part of his presidential legacy. His efforts have been slowed by traditional Arab-Israeli enmity.
''Etched in each side's mind are intense fears and emotions and deep-seated commitment to defend their peoples' interests. There are no easy answers and certainly no painless ones and therefore there is clearly no guarantee of success,'' Clinton said in a statement from the White House briefing room.
He praised Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for agreeing to the summit.
''To delay this gathering, to remain stalled, is simply no longer an option,'' Clinton said.
The announcement followed an intense effort by Clinton and his advisers to bring the parties together.
Shortly before Clinton appeared in the briefing room, Saeb Erekat, one of the Palestinian negotiators, said he had not been informed that a summit would be convened soon. Barak was in Europe, holding talks with British and French leaders. Barak said in Paris that he hoped to meet a Sept. 13 deadline for a framework agreement on Middle East peace, although those efforts are far behind schedule.
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