Jesse Jackson Headed to Mideast

Published May 31, 2002

| FoxNews.com

Rev. Jesse Jackson has accepted an invitation to visit the Middle East and will be making the trip sometime between June 8 and June 14, Palestinian Authority Spokesman Hassan Abdel Rahman said Friday.

Rahman said Jackson is planning to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and other officials from both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

Israeli sources say they have been informed of Jackson's plans. An embassy official said, "We are always happy to meet Americans who want to contribute to building peace and ending terrorism."

Jackson has expressed the wish to visit Jenin and to meet with victims of Palestinian bombing attacks. A Jackson spokesman confirmed that he will be traveling to the region.

In March, Jackson offered to mediate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is entering its 21st month of violence, but the State Department reacted with skepticism. He recently told Fox News that he did not end up making the trip because he did not want to interfere with the visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was offering shuttle diplomacy at the time Jackson's trip was tentatively planned.

Jackson said he has been in touch with Arafat and Israel's foreign minister Shimon Peres and has long relationships with both of them. He also said that when he was planning on traveling before, both leaders agreed to meet with him.

Jackson has been on the diplomatic front before. In 1999, he negotiated the release of three captured U.S. soldiers during the Kosovo conflict. He negotiated with Syria in 1984 for the release of a U.S. Navy pilot, and was dispatched by President Clinton to Sierra Leone in 2000 to help prevent a return to civil war.

Fox News' Rita Cosby contributed to this report.

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