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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 03:08 GMT 04:08 UK
Barak heads for Clinton rendezvous
Ehud Barak planting olive tree
Barak (left) plants an olive tree before leaving for Lisbon
By Middle East correspondent Paul Adams

President Clinton is due to meet Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, in Lisbon later on Thursday.

Their talks, which were originally scheduled to take place in Washington more than a week ago, will focus on Israel's rapid withdrawal from southern Lebanon, as well as stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Less than two weeks ago as Mr Barak prepared to travel to Washington, he was preoccupied by the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.


President Clinton in sunglasses
Cool customer: President Clinton is in the middle of a European charm offensive
Ten days of violence in which six Palestinians had been shot dead by Israeli soldiers, culminated in a petrol bomb attack in which an Israeli toddler was killed.

Mr Barak cancelled his trip altogether and warned the Palestinians not to expect further concessions until the violence stopped.

Soon the situation in Lebanon had started to unravel and the prime minister's attention had shifted elsewhere.

Difficult questions

In Lisbon he can expect words of praise for ending Israel's long occupation of southern Lebanon, but if he's looking for financial aid following the withdrawal, he may find himself asked - not for the first time - to reconsider Israel's decision to sell airborne early warning technology to China.

On the Palestinian track, President Clinton may want to know if there's any truth at all to reports circulating widely here that Mr Barak is ready to cede control over almost all of the West Bank to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

One hawkish member of Mr Barak's coalition government, Natan Sharansky, wrote to the Prime Minister on Tuesday demanding to know whether it was true that Israel was willing to hand over as much as 95% of the West Bank and remove as many as 50,000 of the Jewish settlers who now live there.

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See also:

31 May 00 | Middle East
Syria 'accepts' Israeli withdrawal
31 May 00 | Europe
Clinton offers Star Wars deal
26 May 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Lebanon's fragile peace
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