Secretary of State James Baker concluded his latest Mideast peace mission Thursday without agreement on a formula for Arab-Israeli peace talks.
He said two sticking points remain: Israel's reluctance to accept a United Nations role in any peace conference, and whether peace talks could be reconvened in the event of a deadlock.Baker said he would report to President Bush, probably on Friday, and together they would decide on their next move.
"Those are the only two areas I am aware of of continuing disagreement," Baker said after a 31/2-hour meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
The Israeli leader, bidding Baker farewell, said, "We are sure the secretary will continue his great efforts."
The six-day trip to Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Israel was the fourth attempt by Baker over the past two months to set up a peace conference to deal with the 43-year Arab-Israeli dispute and ongoing disputes involving the Palestinians.
In a gesture to the Israelis, Baker stressed that there are many more areas of agreement than disagreement. He said the United States and Israel have a "clearer and better understanding" of the issues that need to be resolved before talks can begin.
Shamir and his government were concerned that intervention by the United Nations could stack terms of a settlement against Israel.
Over the years, Israel has suffered stunning amd lopsided defeats on security issues before the United Nations, the most punishing of which was a 1975 declaration passed by the General Assembly that equated Zionism with racism.
On the other hand, Baker's trip seems to have produced a basic agreement on how Palestinian Arabs would participate in the talks.
"I believe we now have an approach that we think can be made to work," a U.S. official said. He declined to elaborate, saying the subject was "too sensitive to give you any details."