Secretary of State James Baker sought new thinking Tuesday to end conflict between Jews and Arabs, but both sides clung to their old positions when he met them.
Baker, eager to work for a new order in the Middle East after the allies' gulf war victory, met Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied territories linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israel ruled out a land-for-peace exchange as a basis for talks with Arab states and Palestinians but said the meeting with Baker was friendly.
The Palestinians repeated demands for an independent state and called on Washington to resume dialogue with the PLO, which was suspended last year.
Even as Baker toured the town of Carmiel in northern Israel, reporters were told North Korea had delivered about two dozen Scud-C missiles to Syria along with about 20 missile launchers.
The surface-to-surface weapons, said to be more powerful than the Scud-Bs that Iraq fired on Israel and Saudi Arabia, were delivered by ship in the last day or two, according to sources who spoke on condition they not be identified.
The Scud-C missiles and launchers supplement an already powerful Syrian arsenal said to be capable of firing chemical warheads on Israel. The sources said Syria already had about 20 missile launchers, equal to the number deployed in western Iraq before the Persian Gulf war.
Baker's visit to Israel, his first to the Jewish state, was the most challenging part of a regional tour to promote a Middle East initiative two weeks after U.S.-led allied forces drove Iraq from Kuwait.
He halted a 14-month-long search for peace last June after Shamir blocked it.
This time Baker is trying to take advantage of the postwar order in the region to pursue a two-track approach, seeking peace between Israel and Arabs states at the same time as trying to end the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.
On his arrival in Jerusalem Monday, Baker restated the U.S. position that Israel should comply with U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.
But the head of Shamir's office said that concentrating on U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from occupied Arab lands would lead to failure.
"To focus only on the U.N. resolutions can lead only to failure," Yossi Ben Aharon, director general of Shamir'soffice, told Israel Radio.
"It is natural we all must be ready for negotiations without preconditions, and then we will confront the territorial issue."
Baker has said he did not want to miss a historic opportunity to end the 43-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict, a root cause of Middle East instability.
He told reporters late Monday he had detected flexibility and support among Washington's eight Arab anti-Iraq coalition partners for a peace initiative.
Baker said he had seen signs of new thinking among the Arabs but gave no concrete examples. He urged Israel to respond to this and "avoid retreating into stating final positions as being non-negotiable demands."
Palestinians who met Baker at the U.S. consulate in West Jerusalem said the talks were "very, very frank."
The Palestinians stressed they were talking on the orders of the PLO, which Israel brands a terrorist organization and which lost credibility in the West for its wholehearted support of Iraq in the gulf war.
"We told them that a solution must be based on (U.N. Resolution) 242, which demands an Israeli withdrawal," Palestinian academic Saeb Erekat said after meeting Baker.
"The only way out is for the Americans to start dialogue with the PLO because without the PLO there can be no serious peace," he told reporters.
Shamir, who has revived for Baker's two-day visit a four-point peace plan already tainted with failure, rejects any contact with the PLO.
His plan envisages elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip leading to limited self-rule, but he rules out full independence for the territories, captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
President Bush said last week on the eve of Baker's trip that comprehensive peace must be based on the principle of territory for peace, Israel's security and the legitimate political rights of the Palestinians, who have been waging a revolt against Israel for more than three years.
Baker has said the United States would not pressure Israel, which it arms and bankrolls, into a settlement.