WASHINGTON -- President Clinton is getting a report of apparently inconclusive Mideast peace talks from Israeli and Palestinian negotiators before plotting his next move in a final drive for an accord.
Among the options are sending an envoy to the region or arranging another round after an interlude. The current phase was nearing an end, though, as Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami made plans to fly home Saturday night.
White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton would assess the progress made at the talks at Bolling Air Force Base here and what remains to be done. The two delegations arrived within minutes of each other shortly before 11 a.m. EST and began their meeting with the president 20 minutes later. They made no statements before entering the White House.
Saturday, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arrived in Jordan to brief King Abdullah II on the peace talks. He told reporters Palestinian negotiators would not make concessions on the return of refugees to Israel. Arafat said there were "many obstacles" in the negotiations.
Palestinians accused Israel of backtracking Friday as the two sides weighed the future of Jerusalem's holy sites and Palestinian refugees. Each side looked to the other for critical concessions.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami told American Jewish leaders in a telephone report that the Temple Mount, revered by observant Jews as the site of the ancient Temple, was on the negotiating table.
"For all practical purposes, the Arabs are in control of the Haram," Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, quoted Ben-Ami as saying. Haram as-Sharif, the Al-Aqsa mosque on the site, is holy to Muslims.
"There is a real will from (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat to strike a deal," Ben-Ami said, according to Klein.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, suggested the talks were snagged.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said Israel had pulled back on an earlier offer on Jerusalem, one of the most contentious issues.
"They gave us positive indications on the issue of Jerusalem, but they went back on it," Rabbo said.
"On some of the ideas they had proposed concerning Jerusalem, the Israelis stepped back, concerning Haram," he said. "We are facing a crisis. We are not close on any of the issues."
"I hope it's temporary," said Hassan Abdel Rahman, the Palestine Liberation Organization's representative in Washington. "But there a change of position by the Israelis."
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke with the delegations for two hours.
Albright's discussions were "very serious" and the two delegations outlined to her "where they are and where they need to be," said Philip Reeker, a State Department spokesman.
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