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Peres: peace process will top summit agenda

By Mary CurtiusSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 2, 1986


Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres says that finding ways to achieve ``a comprehensive peace in the Middle East'' will be the chief topic at his summit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. ``I think at the top of the agenda, from my point of view, will be how to proceed to the opening of a peace conference concerning the comprehensive peace in the Middle East and concerning the solution of the Palestinian problem,'' the prime minister said in an interview.

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Entering his final six weeks in power before he trades places with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Mr. Peres seems determined to go out in a flurry of diplomatic activity.

Peres's emphasis on the need for a comprehensive settlement and resolution of the Palestinian problem brings him into conflict with Mr. Shamir, who tends to stress negotiations between Israel and each of its neighboring Arab states as the best way to achieve peace. Jordan and Egypt both have said that the only way to expand the peace process is to convene a Mideast peace conference that would achieve a comprehensive settlement of the issues dividing Israel and its neighbors and resolve the Palestinian issue.

Peres's closest aides regard the summit, tentatively set for Sept. 10 and 11 in Alexandria, Egypt, as an ideal forum for setting a standard of diplomatic initiative that Shamir, head of the nationalistic Likud bloc, will be hard-pressed to pursue after rotation on Oct. 14.

Peres said that Israel must ``introduce all the time new ideas, new opportunities'' for pursuing peace with its neighbors. He indicated he might leave the government after rotation if he feels the Likud is not pursuing negotiations aggressively with Jordan and Palestinian representatives over the fate of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Golan Heights, and Gaza Strip.

``I am not an official in this government,'' the prime minister said. ``It is basically a government made of two large parties. I am head of one of the two, and unless there will be a common effort in an agreed direction, there won't be a common government. We are changing jobs, we are not changing direction and we are not changing the nature of the government. If there will be a change [in the nature of the government], the government will not be able to exist.''

Peres's view of what should be tackled at the summit angers some Likud members. As rotation nears, Likud is growing increasingly concerned that Peres might make unacceptable concessions on the Palestinian issue in an 11th-hour bid to avoid rotation. Rumors have circulated here recently that President Mubarak will try hard to push Peres into acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinians.

During his tenure as prime minister, Peres has taken pains to speak publicly on the need to address the ``aspirations of the Palestinian people''; on his resolve to refrain from imposing Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and on his adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for Israel's withdrawal from territories it occupied in 1967 as the basis for negotiations. But he also has insisted that Israel will not deal with the PLO, will not accept the creation of a Palestinian state, and will not commit -- before negotiations -- to full withdrawal from all territories.