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Sparring sides call U.S. Mideast peace mission a failure

May 16, 1997
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian and Israeli officials on Friday described the latest American Middle East peace initiative as ending in failure, with a Palestinian spokesman declaring the peace process "clinically dead."

U.S. envoy Dennis Ross was to return to the United States Friday after nine days of trying to get the stalled talks moving again.

Palestinian spokesman Marwan Kanafani called Ross' trip a "complete failure" and accused U.S. President Clinton of not being serious enough in pushing for peace.

"The peace process is clinically dead. We need a last effort to save it," Kanafani told a news conference in Cairo. "It's about time the international community, and especially the government of the United States, take a serious step ... to save the peace process."

He said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wrote Clinton a letter, saying he was disappointed in Ross' trip. "This is not the mediation that in fact could save the peace process," Kanafani said.

According to Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abourdeneh, Arafat also asked Clinton for "a more effective, active role, not only on the Palestinian track but also on the Arab track."

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet that no progress had been made in Ross' mission. He also accused Arafat of creating an atmosphere of false alarm.

"There is an attempt, apparently, by the Palestinian Authority, by its leader, to create an artificial crisis," said Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh.

Peace talks broke off in March when Israel began construction on a housing project on disputed land in the southeastern outskirts of Jerusalem, a project strongly opposed by the Palestinians.

Israeli and Palestinian security officials were to have met at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv earlier Friday to discuss resuming cooperation. But Arafat ordered the Palestinian representatives not to attend.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Struggle For Peace

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