WASHINGTON—The Bush administration is reaching out to European allies for a possible new push for peace in the Middle East if Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is replaced by more moderate leaders, US and diplomatic sources said on Monday.
A senior Bush administration official said US and EU officials met on Friday at the White House to discuss efforts to revive the “road map” peace plan and how the death of Arafat, who is critically ill in a French military hospital, would change “the realities in the region.”
White House officials played down the session, which was not made public until Monday. But diplomatic sources said it was a sign of growing trans-Atlantic coordination, which has been marred in the past by differences over whether to negotiate with Arafat.
The United States has long pressed European governments to sideline the Palestinian leader, whom Israel and Washington accuses of fomenting anti-Israel violence, an allegation he denies.
Friday’s meeting was attended by French, German, British and other European Union officials and came one day after President George W. Bush promised to push in a second term to revive Middle East peace talks.
One diplomatic source called it a “brain-storming” session to “coordinate and exchange views,” adding, “there was no conclusion.”
But the road map is expected to be a major focus of talks this week between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been prodding his American ally to make the Middle East peace process a higher priority.