Reporters' Notebook: Scenes From Madrid

MADRID'S imposing Royal Palace, the site of the Middle East peace conference, has a nickname of long standing: "Oriente," or "East" palace. But these days in the halls of the Spanish foreign ministry, diplomats have taken to calling the 18th century edifice the "Oriente Medio," or "Middle East" palace.Friendly gesture As delegates and journalists milled around the Palestinian office at the press center earlier this week, a rather bemused looking Israeli official walked in, saying he was looking for Yussef. Reporters who recognized him from the Israeli delegation stopped in their tracks. But the man was not on a clandestine mission. Clutching a box of photocopier paper, he was welcomed into the Palestinians' inner sanctum. It emerged that somehow the Israelis had found out that their neighbors had run out of paper, and the Israeli thought he might help. Asked about his gesture of peace, he shrugged, "We are just the technicians here."

Diplomatic blunders Things are not always what they seem at this conference, and even when they are, reporters may not be able to say so. Some diplomatic blunders have arisen. A CNN anchor apologized profusely on the air for having referred to the "PLO" delegation. He made it clear that he had not intended to suggest that any of the Palestinian team had anything to do with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Outside the press center, meanwhile, a sign hailed the "International Middle East Peace Conference." But the word "International" has been blacked out. For years the Arabs demanded an international conference, while the Israelis insisted on bilateral negotiations. The current talks are a Solomonic solution, a meeting of many nations, which may not be called an international conference. But nobody told the sign painter.

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