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Levy Meeting with Baker Put Off, Apparently for Medical Reasons

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Reasons of health apparently have forced Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy to call off a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker here next week and another diplomatic meeting in Rome later this month.

French officials say they were unofficially notified to cancel security arrangements made for Levy’s stay in Paris, since he would not be coming here, “for medical reasons.”

Levy suffered what was described as a mild heart attack on June 14. He returned to work Monday. But his doctors have indicated he cannot yet travel abroad.

Sources in Jerusalem said Wednesday that the timing of the meeting was in doubt, indicating it could be rescheduled for another date.

Baker proposed the meeting with Levy in a letter congratulating the Likud official on his appointment as foreign minister.

He suggested it be held in Paris on July 18 or 19, when the secretary of state will be here for talks with the foreign ministers of America’s World War II allies on the subject of German unification.

The Levy-Baker meeting had been seen as possibly crucial to U.S-Israeli relations, which have been severely strained recently because of the Likud government’s rejection of Baker’s formula for Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo.

That formula would allow Palestinian deportees and residents of East Jerusalem to participate in a delegation with which Israel would discuss its plan for elections in the administered territories.

SHAMIR ADDRESSED BUSH’S CONCERNS

In Jerusalem, an American Jewish leader said Wednesday that he believed a Levy-Baker meeting would help case the strains that have developed between Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and President Bush.

“There is some tension in the Bush-Shamir relationship,” Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said at a news conference.

“It may have been as a result of a misunderstanding at their first meeting regarding the issue of settlements,” he said.

But the American Jewish leader said he had “a feeling” that in their recent exchange of letters, “Shamir may have addressed that issue and hopefully put it to rest as far as the president is concerned.”

He predicted that when Levy and Baker do meet, “they’ll understand each other. It will be a good meeting.”

Israeli officials in Brussels, meanwhile, said Levy also plans to cancel a scheduled July 28 meeting in Rome with the foreign ministers of several European Community nations.

That meeting was part of Israel’s diplomatic offensive to reverse criticism in E.C. circles of “excessive repressive measures” allegedly used by Israel in the administered territories.

(JTA correspondent David Landau in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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