Breakfast With Barak

Fresh on the heels of a Camp David sleepover, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Friday discussed his Mideast peacemaking plans over a private breakfast in Secretary of State Madeleine AlbrightÂ's Georgetown home.

A senior U.S. official said Albright would probably include Damascus in her tour of the Middle East next month.

Barak met Albright for breakfast at her Washington townhouse on Friday, the second day of a visit filled with expressions of good will and hopes of improved relations between the United States and its closest Middle East ally.

Â"We have been able to reestablish a really important working relationship that is based on trust and confidence and the ability to work together,Â" Albright told reporters at a joint news conference in her garden.

Barak also seemed pleased with the talks.

Â"We got deeper and wider into all the subjects. The discussion was very open and very intimate and went to the depths of the issues,Â" he said.

The U.S. official said they discussed the prospects for negotiations between Israel and Syria, between Israel and the Palestinians and about U.S. military sales to Israel.

Asked about the Syrian track, Barak was cautious. Â"We stand in the face of very important decisions that will influence the fate of the state of Israel,Â" he said.

The United States was unenthusiastic when Barak floated proposals to make changes in the timing of the next Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank.

But a U.S. official welcomed BarakÂ's new pledge to impelent the agreement and said the United States now had no doubt about his commitment.

Barak said he was looking forward to Albright coming to the Middle East Â"to help in shaping the overall strategy and the details of how to move forwardÂ".

The Israeli prime minister spent the night at Camp David in rural Maryland, the first Israeli leader to visit the presidential retreat since former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat negotiated peace there in 1978.

President Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barak and his wife Nava had dinner till 10 p.m.. The two men then talked for three and a half hours, Israeli sources said.

Mr. Clinton told aides that Barak made it very clear he is committed to pursuing peace.

Â"The president said that he sees very clearly this is a leader who is going to be scrupulous in terms of fulfilling obligations and also very vigilant in terms of pursuing peace with Israeli security interests in mind,Â" a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Barak is meeting Defense Secretary William Cohen on Friday before flying to New York for the weekend. He returns for a White House dinner on Sunday evening and more talks next week.

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