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Alternative Mideast Peace Plans Being Floated at U.N. and in Bonn

Israel’s ambassador here has disputed reports that Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar asked the five permanent members of the Security Council on Monday to become directly involved in the Middle East peace process.

Perez de Cuellar reportedly asked the Security Council members to put together a peace plan during periodic informal meetings, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times.

But Johanan Bein, Israel’s acting permanent representative here, contended that Monday’s meeting was merely a briefing on the recent visit to the Middle East by the secretary-general’s envoy, Jean-Claude Aime.

“He didn’t ask them to devise a plan,” Bein said.

In Bonn, meanwhile, West German President Richard von Weizsacker, a longtime supporter of Israel, has called for the convening of an international peace conference, with the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in order to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

His request was made Monday night at a state dinner honoring President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia.

Israel has long rejected the idea of an international peace conference under U.N. auspices, which it believes would strongly favor creation of a Palestinian state from the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Instead, it favors direct negotiations with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors.

The United States has mainly supported Israel’s point of view. But recently there has been speculation, in both Israeli and American Jewish circles, that the Bush administration may look to an international solution if efforts toward a direct dialogue are stymied by the Israeli government.

U.S. REMAINS COMMITTED TO DIALOGUE

While the Bush administration’s frustration with Israel has clearly grown recently, it has not indicated it is ready to abandon the direct negotiations approach.

That point was emphasized Wednesday at the daily State Department briefing in Washington. Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher stressed that the United States “remains committed to moving forward to a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“We are working hard toward that objective,” he said.

In Bonn, von Weizsacker’s call for an international conference was challenged Tuesday by the West German daily Die Welt, which reported that the president had failed to clear his declaration with Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s government.

His call also went beyond the policy of the European Community on the issue, the West German daily noted.

Last year, at a Madrid summit meeting of the heads of state of the 12 E.C. nations, an international conference was suggested as only one of several possibilities to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Die Welt, in an opinion column, sharply criticized von Weizsacker, remarking that the president made his suggestion at a time when the United States has suspended its dialogue with the PLO.

Moreover, East Germany has been making continual, sensational revelations about how the PLO and other international terrorist groups were protected and assisted by the former Communist regime.

So far, the Israeli Embassy in Bonn has not publicly reacted to the president’s suggestion. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem is said to be studying von Weizsacker’s declaration, which came as a surprise.

(JTA correspondents David Kantor in Bonn and David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)

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