Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir met Wednesday with Secretary of State James Baker, having signaled once again that he would not budge on key elements in the Middle East peace equation.
Shamir arrived at the State Department in the morning for talks with Baker, marking the second round of this month's intensive Middle East negotiations undertaken by President Bush's administration.The first round came Monday and Tuesday as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with Bush and Baker and agreed the negotiating climate should be improved but disagreed on the way to do so. The next round is set for April 17, when King Hussein of Jordan travels to Washington.
As Shamir arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside the nation's capital, he said he had traveled to "open vistas for peace" and declared, "We are among friends." He planned to meet with Bush Thursday.
But in New York's Town Hall Tuesday night, Shamir reiterated that Israel never would agree to talk with the Palestine Liberation Organization, never would agree to establishment of a Palestinian state and never would withdraw totally from the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Shamir's arrival overlapped by three hours the departure of Mubarak, but they did not meet. Mubarak wants an early international conference on the Middle East to serve as an umbrella for face-to-face negotiations.
A U.S. official speaking to reporters before the Shamir talks said the Bush administration wants "to work closely with Israel" to promote regional peace on the basis of U.N. resolutions.
Shamir "comes to Washington at a time when U.S.-Israeli relations are strong and vital," the official said. "The United States is committed to the security and well-being of Israel. There should be no question about that."