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Israelis Reportedly Agree to Send Delegation to Washington for Clarification on Peace Proposal

Aired January 3, 2001 - 2:34 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have a development in the ongoing effort by President Clinton to advance the Middle East peace process. We're going to check in now with Andrea Koppel at the State Department to find out what that is -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, we've been waiting to hear what the word out of Prime Minister Barak's peace Cabinet meeting would be. They went into session just a short time ago, a few hours ago. It's our understanding they're coming out of session right now, and early word according to Israeli television right now is that the Israelis may be sending a small delegation, including one of the senior Israeli peace negotiators, to Washington as soon as tomorrow -- it could be in the next several days -- to get further clarification as to what those reservations were that Yasser Arafat had expressed to President Clinton during several hours of talks yesterday and to see whether or not there is a basis for moving forward with future talks that would have to happen soon, because President Clinton leaves office in 17 days.

This would seem to be a positive signal. The Israelis apparently not outright rejecting this reservation expressed by Yasser Arafat. And it certainly seems that there is some reason for some cautious optimism that has already been expressed by U.S. officials earlier today, Lou.

WATERS: But Andrea, you still mentioned that 17 days before President Clinton leaves office. Have you heard any talk anywhere that President Clinton might continue this process if even after he leaves office?

KOPPEL: No word whatsoever, Lou. There are many within the Bush team, the Bush foreign policy team, certainly the Secretary-designate Colin Powell and others, who certainly would like to take over this portfolio and have a lot of experience in the past in dealing with it. But no word whatsoever that they would ask President Clinton to stay on.

U.S. officials, at least the Clinton administration, are certainly well-aware of the fact that they have a -- there is a very tall order to accomplish in the next 17 days. So they plan on giving it their all in trying to at least move this forward a little bit more before the administration ends.

WATERS: All right.

KOPPEL: Lou.

WATERS: Andrea Koppel at the State Department.

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