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On His Way to Middle East, Gore Pledges Push for Peace

On the eve of his trip to the Middle East, Vice President Al Gore pledged a "full-court press" push for peace, including economic benefits for all countries involved in the process.

Gore is scheduled to leave Sunday for a five-day visit to the region, which includes stops in Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Israel. He is also slated to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The trip comes on the heels of Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s weeklong mission to the region. Gore, who had intended to visit the region last fall, was forced to postpone his trip after he severed his Achilles’ tendon playing basketball in October.

"I will assure people of the Middle East that President Clinton and the United States remain confident that there will be economic benefits from the peace process for all the countries of the region," Gore told a round table of 14 Israeli, Arab and American reporters Wednesday.

"These benefits may not be immediate, but they are inevitable," the vice president said.

Gore said he hopes that his visit will complement Christopher’s recent trip by directing his attention to "preparing for what happens next as the peace process advances."

Christopher’s major accomplishment was securing a pledge by Syria to resume direct negotiations with Israel on the ambassadorial level in Washington.

Declaring an all-out effort by the Clinton administration for Middle East peace, Gore sounded an optimistic note for his trip.

"The road we have traveled has been arduous and there remain obstacles, but a just, lasting and comprehensive peace is clearly attainable," Gore said.

Meanwhile, Martin Indyk, the new U.S. ambassador to the Israel, is scheduled to arrive in Israel with Gore.

Indyk, the first Jew to hold the post, was sworn in at the State Department on Wednesday.

Gore’s trip comes at an especially fragile time for the administration because the House of Representatives this week moved to cut promised debt relief for Jordan.

Gore called the House’s decision to cut debt forgiveness to Jordan from $275 million to $50 million a political move that he believed would ultimately be overturned.

One of the missions of his trip, Gore said, is to reassure Jordan and all Middle Eastern states that the administration is fully committed to peace.

"I think you will find that at the end of this process, the outcome will not perturb either the relationship [between Jordan and the U.S.] or the progress in the peace process, which was furthered by the arrangement," Gore said.

"Jordan is very sophisticated, very experienced in understanding the way the U.S. political system operates and is not prone to misunderstand an interim step in the process as anything other that."

The full-court press for peace will continue in the coming weeks, Gore said, with scheduled visits to Washington by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Hussein.

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