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Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 01:29 GMT 02:29 UK

World: Middle East

King Hussein to join peace talks

President Clinton is pressing for an agreement

King Hussein of Jordan is to join the Middle East peace talks in the United States.

Middle East
He will mediate between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a senior diplomat said.

The news came as US President Bill Clinton freed himself of other engagements in order to concentrate on securing an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

[ image: The president says without a deal the consequences will be 'dire']
The president says without a deal the consequences will be 'dire'
The talks have been extended into their sixth day after the two sides failed to reach agreement in the scheduled four days.

King Hussein, a key figure in Middle East peace efforts, flew to the Washington area from Minnesota where he has been receiving treatment for cancer.

"King Hussein will arrive at Wye around noon (1600 GMT). It will not be a short visit. He is expected to stay there for some time. His Majesty is going to use his good offices with the sides to help bridge the gap," the diplomat is reported to have said.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said King Hussein has been "a very constructive influence" in the peace process.

For his part Mr Clinton cancelled a fund-raising trip to California, even though mid-term congressional elections are barely two weeks away.

Correspondents say Mr Clinton has invested much time in the negotiations, and is now putting the full prestige of the White House behind the effort to break the deadlock.

Progress reported

Earlier one of the Palestinian negotiators, Ahmed Tibi, said the way was open to reach an agreement.

Stephen Sackur reports from the talks venue in Maryland
"We have made progress in the course of the last 24 hours, particularly on the issue of Gaza airport and passage between Gaza and the West Bank," he said on Israeli radio.

The peace process appeared to have stalled again on Monday when a grenade attack on an Israeli bus station injured 60 people.

[ image: Sixty were injured in Monday's grenade attack]
Sixty were injured in Monday's grenade attack
The Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to news of the attack by saying he would refuse to discuss anything but security at summit talks with the Palestinian leadership.

That sparked an angry Palestinian response - one delegate reportedly accused the Israelis of "cheap blackmail".

But in an effort to limit the damage, the Americans released a joint statement on behalf of Mr Netanyahu and Mr Arafat pledging co-operation against terrorism and intensified peace efforts.

"We agree not to give in to the efforts of extremists to destroy the hope for peace and security for our peoples," it said.

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