Diplomacy on Hold

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JERUSALEM: The U.S. shuttle diplomacy to end the ongoing fighting in Lebanon was put on hold Tuesday as a meeting between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Syrian president Hafez Assad was postponed until Wednesday morning. Christopher arrived in Damascus Tuesday only to discover upon arrival that Assad was 'not available' for the meeting. "There are several explanations for Assad's refusal to meet with Christopher," says TIME's J.F.O. McAllister. "He could have just wanted to buy time to look at the U.S proposal further. Another explanation would be that Assad was making a point by stiffing Christopher, just as he kept him waiting Sunday for two hours while he met with the Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov." In a further slowing of Christopher's peacemaking mission, a scheduled trip to Beirut was scuttled when he was advised that the recent fighting had made travel to the city too dangerous. "The message arrived minutes before Christopher was about to leave," reports McAllister. "He already had his coat on and was almost out the door." The U.S. proposal, which is not being discussed by the State Department, may include a written agreement between Israel and Syria -->