Industrial Powers Back U.S. Plan for Israeli-palestinian Dialogue

The United States has apparently gained the support of its major allies for the Bush administration’s efforts to bring about preliminary talks between Israel and a Palestinian delegation.

The seven major industrial powers, meeting for their 16th annual economic summit in Houston, have called for an “early dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians that will lead to free, democratic elections and to negotiations.”

Secretary of State James Baker, briefing reporters Tuesday in Houston, said that position was the consensus of Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and West Germany.

“Although different approaches were raised, we all agreed on the need for movement in the peace process,” he said.

By “different approaches,” Baker apparently was alluding to European support for an international peace conference to deal with the Middle East conflict.

The Arabs have long urged such a conference, but Israel is opposed to it, preferring direct negotiations with Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. The United States also prefers direct talks, but has indicated it might support an international conference if direct talks cannot be convened.

The six U.S. allies attending the summit also have urged a more active role in the peace process for the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Baker sidestepped a question about whether the allies had called on the United States to resume its former dialogue with the PLO.

“Everyone supports the concept of our trying to move toward a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians,” he responded. “They support that as having the greatest potential for developing an active peace process and for moving that process forward.”

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