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CNN Today

Barak Maintains Hope for Reelection, Mideast Peace

Aired February 2, 2001 - 4:25 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: While CNN and the other networks revisit the U.S. presidential election, the people of Israel are looking ahead to their own. In just four days now, they will decide who will next lead their country. The latest polls show that Ariel Sharon has a double-digit lead over the current Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Earlier today CNN interviewed Mr. Barak and got his thoughts about the election and the future of the peace process in the Middle East.

Here's CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Israel buries its dead -- two men killed in drive-by shootings on Thursday; and the Palestinians lay to rest one of their young men shot and killed the same day. In response, Israel has again blocked off Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank.

And against this backdrop, the Israeli election campaign continues. Prime Minister Ehud Barak continues to pay the price at the polls. Although he's trailing badly, he tells CNN that Israelis must be prepared for the pain that comes with making difficult concessions.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: However tough, we are suggesting the right solutions for the country, and that we should be ready for it, and even take certain price of pain in order to have them. But they're the real solutions for our problems.

AMANPOUR: On the campaign trail, Barak met enthusiastic crowds: young people and others holding rallies for the prime minister on this day. He even got a much-needed boost from former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Hugely popular here and eager to keep the peace process on track, Clinton gave an interview to Israeli television.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't say enough about how much I respect the risks that Prime Minister Barak has taken. I do not believe that they have caused this Intifada.

AMANPOUR: Barak's opponent, Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon, has declined all requests for interviews ahead of the elections, but on the campaign trail he had this to say:

ARIEL SHARON, PRIME MINISTER CANDIDATE: Look, I think that President Clinton is admired here in Israel, but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for the Israeli citizens to elect the prime minister that they will decide upon.

AMANPOUR: And with just a few days until Israel's vote, Sharon maintains a 20-point lead in the opinion polls.

Still, Barak says that he is the man who will walk the extra mile and take the risks for peace.

(on camera): Is the risk worth, perhaps, the sinking of your political career?

BARAK: Let me tell you, I don't take myself so seriously as to pretend that I'm more important than the future of this country.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): A future that he believes he can secure.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Tel Aviv.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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