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CNN Today

Middle East Peace Summit: No Full Three-Way Session Yet

Aired July 12, 2000 - 1:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under way at Camp David, Maryland, are barely a day old and President Clinton has called for a total blackout on news. But one big headline came out of there this morning, and it effects, of all countries, China.

CNN senior White House correspondent John King tells us all about it -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Natalie.

The first major development from the Camp David talks, little directly to do with the peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israeli government informing the Clinton administration and the Chinese government today that it is canceling plans, controversial plans, to go ahead with a $250 million sale of an airborne radar system to China.

U.S. officials had objected on grounds that that would undermine U.S. national security interests and many in the Congress had threatened to cut off or at least freeze the nearly $3 billion in annual aid the United States gives to Israel if that sale went forward.

Speaking to reporters up near the peace talks site earlier today, Joe Lockhart, the president's press secretary, welcomed word that Israel was now canceling that planned sale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We welcome the decision. This has been an important issue to us and a subject of continuing discussion at a variety of levels of the government, including the president -- between the president and the prime minister. And we are pleased to see that they've taken our security concerns into account in making this decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now as for the talks themselves, U.S. officials say there is still a cooperative, sometimes even jovial atmosphere, as evidenced yesterday here by this polite tussle, between the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders, to see how should enter the negotiations first. But despite this playful outside scene, U.S. officials say it's still very difficult inside the negotiating rooms. As of this hour, no full session planned, no session planned with all three delegations, the United States, the Palestinians and the Israelis today.

Instead, Mr. Clinton is meeting first today with the Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, then Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, also, shuttling back and forth.

The Palestinians, we're told, were viewing some new proposals from the Israelis on these issues. U.S. officials say yesterday was about setting the right mood and the atmospherics, and today is about getting down to substance. Still no word, though, because of that news blackout, as to whether any progress is being made. U.S. officials saying the issues, of course, quite difficult -- Natalie.

ALLEN: John King at the White House. Thanks, John.

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