Secretary of State James Baker held out hope a Middle East peace conference still can be convened, despite coming up empty in his attempt to bring regional leaders together during his fourth trip to the area.

"I believe that there is a chance to produce a process which can result in direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab states, and between Israel and the Palestinians," Baker said Thursday before heading home from Israel.Baker met with leaders of Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan during the past week, and while he received many kind words and expressions of hope, he got very little in the way of concrete concession from any side.

He was to brief President Bush on Friday, and the two are expected to plot the direction of U.S. diplomacy.