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The BBC's Nick Childs
"Both sides must be prepared to make historic concessions"
 real 56k

Nabil Shath, Senior Palistinian spokesman
"States must be recognised. That gives them international personality"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Adams
"This opportunity should not be lost"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Arafat rethink on statehood
Arafat and Wahid
Arafat met the Indonesian president on Wednesday
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said on Wednesday that his ruling council would reassess his decision to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state next month.

His announcement comes as Israel's acting foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami said on Wednesday peace talks - which broke up in the US-brokered Camp David talks last month - would be revived.

"We have decided the course, but we have to reassess this," Mr Arafat said in Jakarta, after meeting Indonesian leader Abdurrahman Wahid.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Mr Arafat has previously made ambigious remarks about the deadline
Mr Arafat had vowed to declare independence on 13 September, with or without a peace deal with Israel.

The United States had warned that it would review its relations and cut aid to the Palestinians if they went through with their plan.

But Mr Arafat has also come under pressure to declare statehood at home.

Peace process revived

In the Middle East, Israeli and Palestinian officials announced the revival of formal peace talks on Wednesday.

Barak
Ehud Barak is facing pressure at home
No date or venue for future talks has been given yet.

But the US special envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross, is due to arrive in the region on Thursday to try to kick-start talks.

A senior Palestinian official, Mahmud Abbas, said any summit would have to be well prepared so it did not result in failure.


Time is short and we are in a very delicate period

Ehud Barak
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is expected to have talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman later on Wednesday, urged the Palestinians to be flexible.

"Time is short and we are in a very delicate period," he said.

Crossing paths

Both Mr Arafat and Israeli cabinet minister Shimon Peres have criss-crossed each other's trails in their whirlwind Asian tours to garner support over the Middle East peace process.

Mr Peres arrived in Beijing on Wednesday - just days after Mr Arafat's visit.

China confirmed its support for a Palestinian state to Mr Peres while also saying that it hoped negotiations would continue until both sides reached an agreement.


I didn't come to mobilise anybody to support Israel against the Palestinians

Shimon Peres
Earlier, Mr Peres - a former premier - had said he would urge China to back an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

"I didn't come to mobilise anybody to support Israel against the Palestinians," Mr Peres had said. "Our wish is to support the peace."

Mr Peres said a peace deal was possible within "several months".

Indonesia and Jerusalem

Mr Peres appeared to win some support from the Indonesian leader.

Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the most thorny issue between the two sides
Mr Wahid said on Tuesday that Israel should have administrative control of Jerusalem - the most contentious issue in the peace process.

But Mr Wahid - a Muslim cleric who heads the world's most populous Muslim nation - added that political sovereignty of the holy city should fall under an international body of six neighbouring countries and the United Nations.

Israel has offered the Palestinians limited control in parts of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, but has resisted any international mandate over the city.

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See also:

15 Aug 00 | Middle East
Israel looks east for help
14 Aug 00 | Middle East
Arafat wins Chinese support
03 Apr 00 | Middle East
US anger at Israeli arms sales
26 Jul 00 | Middle East
Arafat defiant after summit failure
20 Jul 00 | Mideast Peace Process
Jerusalem: Eternal, intractable
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