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Barak says 'time running out' for Mideast accord

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that "time is running" out for the Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a Mideast peace agreement.

He said the impasse on the resumption of Mideast talks could be linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's unwillingness to budge on points put forth at the recent Camp David talks.

"We are realistic enough to know that nobody can have 100 percent of their dreams," Barak said at a news conference in New York, where he is attending the United Nations Millennium Summit.

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"Time is running out, and I don't believe that President Clinton or Israel will be able to negotiate, in the same terms, two months from now," said Barak, referring to the fact that the U.S. president's term is nearing its end.

"I believe the most complicated issue is Jerusalem," Barak told reporters. "But I believe that if there will be a breakthrough on Jerusalem, I believe that other issues could be pushed forward in an effective way"

Sites important to the world's religions are located in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the area called Temple Mount by the Israelis and al Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, by Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs.

Barak said: "The Temple Mount is only place under dispute" in the stalled talks.

"Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are the cornerstones of Jewish identity. No Israeli prime minister will ever be able to sign a document that gives up sovereignty of the Temple Mount to the Palestinians," Barak said.

Clinton had been holding behind-the-scenes meetings with Barak and Arafat at the U.N. summit. In an effort to jump-start the peace talks, the president met both men on Wednesday, the first such face-to-face encounters since the Camp David talks in July.

The idea was for Clinton to "get a sense" of where Barak and Arafat stood in the peace process, said White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.

Still, Barak said, Israel is "hopeful that, in response to our readiness to take calculated risk, without violating our national interest, that the other side will be able to show some level of flexibility and openness."

"We do not lose hope," Barak said.



RELATED STORIES:
Clinton pushes Arafat, Barak for an agreement
September 6, 2000
Pressure mounts on Barak, Arafat to reach peace deal as deadline approaches
September 4, 2000
Mideast leaders press for compromise but deadlock persists
August 31, 2000

RELATED SITES:
The Israeli Government's Official Website, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Knesset - The Israeli Parliament
Palestinian National Authority Home Page
U.N. Information System: Palestine
Near Eastern Affairs: Middle East Peace Process
Camp David Accords

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