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CNN Today

Hopes of a Middle East Summit Dwindling

Aired October 10, 2000 - 2:21 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: President Clinton still holding out hope to bring the Middle East leaders together for an emergency summit to try to find a way out of the fighting that has plagued Israel.

CNN's Major Garrett is at the White House with more about this today -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good afternoon, Natalie.

The president of the United States has been working the phones aggressively all day. He has already spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In both conversations the president urged both leaders to do what they could to reduce, and possibly end, the violence that has plagued the region for, now, 13 days.

And he also explored, with both of them, whether or not they think it would be a good idea to convene an emergency summit, either in the Middle East or possibly in another location in Europe. The president is also due, later on today, to speak to the U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan about his shuttle diplomacy throughout the region.

About an hour ago, the White House spokesman offered this assessment of the administration about the day's events throughout the Middle East.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE SIEWART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today we have seen somewhat of a decline in the level of violence there, but not nearly enough; and we're continuing to urge both sides to do more -- to urge, both publicly and privately, the people that they can influence in the region to do more, to take more concrete steps to lower the level of violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: The key phrase there is "lower the level of violence." After that question and answer, Mr. Siewart was asked, directly, if the administration thought that Mr. Arafat was doing all that he could to reduce, and possibly end, the violence. In a direct quote, "He's doing some things, but he could do more."

Specifically what the administration would like Mr. Arafat to do is issue some declaration to those Palestinians, with whom the administration believes he has some influence, to encourage them to stop engaging in violence. Now, the administration concedes, privately and behind the scenes, that Mr. Arafat can't stop all the violence; but they do believe a statement from him could dramatically reduce tension in the area.

That's one of the thing they're looking for today -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Major, is President Clinton still planning to attend any summit, no matter where it might be held?

GARRETT: Well, those conversations are ongoing, but it does appear that the idea of a summit, particularly in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, is definitely losing momentum. Throughout the briefing, the White House spokesman said that that is an idea that they are continuing to pursue -- an option.

But it does appear that there are other conversations going on, other ways of dealing with the situation. The White House will continue to consult with the Secretary-General Kofi Annan about his shuttle diplomacy. Perhaps he could achieve some things there in the region.

There is also talk here at the White House about possibly sending Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the region. There are a lot of different options on the table, but it does appear the idea of a summit, at least in short order, at some time in the next three of four days, is losing momentum.

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