Weighing a New Mideast Role

Washington changes gears

Slowly, warily, all but imperceptibly, the Administration may be inching its way back to a role in Middle East negotiations. Policymakers are far from convinced, however, that the time is quite right. Said a senior official last week: "We are shifting from neutral to first gear, but we're not at cruising speed yet."

The first step toward bringing the U.S. into the arena was taken in February by Jordan's King Hussein, who wooed Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat into an ambiguous agreement to pursue peace with Israel. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is working to thaw the "cold peace" with Israel...

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