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Talks to be continued

January 11, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - As peace talks between Israel and Syria recessed Monday, a U.S. State Department spokesman commended Shepherdstown for its "first-rate job" in hosting the event.

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"We are extremely pleased by the hospitality of the Shepherdstown people," spokesman James P. Rubin said in his final briefing at the Frank Arts Center at Shepherd College Monday afternoon. "We have certainly been heartened by the support."

Rubin said new ideas were brought to the table during the peace talks between Israel and Syria, but both sides agreed to a nine-day recess.

Rubin said the talks would resume on Jan. 19, probably in the Washington area, but said he did not know if they would return to Shepherdstown.

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The talks, which began Jan. 3, had thrust Shepherdstown into the spotlight and Mayor Vince Parmesano said its was "kind of a letdown" that no agreement was reached during the talks.

"We were kind of hoping we would have a footnote in history as the Shepherdstown Accords," Parmesano said.

"We're kind of sad to see it go because our business will slow down a bit," said Holly Shawen, manager of the Old Pharmacy Cafe, where employees made up the last to-go orders for CNN news crews on Monday.

The restaurant on East German Street had its share of excitement during the talks. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ate breakfast at the cafe and President Clinton stopped in last Friday.

Many downtown restaurants such as the Yellow Brick Bank and Ed's Tap Room and Deli enjoyed brisk business once they were discovered by U.S. and international media. During his press briefings, Rubin periodically mentioned being able to go downtown and enjoy the good food.

Mike Cardis, bartender at the Mecklenburg Inn, said the bar was often crowded at night with local people hoping to catch a glimpse of the notable personalities in town.

Hagerstown, Sharpsburg, and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., had brushes with fame.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa toured Harpers Ferry Saturday, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, his wife and Albright walked through Antietam Battlefield Sunday. Earlier in the week, two women believed to be wives of talks participants, surrounded by Secret Service agents, drew stares while shopping at Prime Oulets of Hagerstown.

Law enforcement officers probably were relieved to see the talks end, said Parmesano.

More than 100 federal and local officers worked 12-hour shifts to provide security for the talks, Parmesano said.

"That's a pretty long stint without much of a break," he said. "They were the people that were most affected."

There was some fear that sections of town would not be accessible during the talks, or that they might become a terrorist target. But the fears quickly subsided for the most part, Parmesano said.

The talks were held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center.

Clinton, Albright and the Israeli and Syrian delegations attended a lengthy dinner at the National Conservation Training Center Sunday night, Rubin said. Clinton left Shepherdstown by helicopter just after midnight and Albright left at mid-afternoon on Monday, officials said.

Before Rubin's last briefing Monday, Israeli reporters brought their luggage to the Frank Arts Center to be loaded onto vehicles to be taken to the airport. Because the reporters were expected to be taken directly to a plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, Md., their baggage was checked out inside the art center, said Philip Reeker, director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Press Relations.

Reporters were kept back from the luggage as U.S. security personnel walked a dog along the rows of bags.

The Israeli reporters were scheduled to fly home with Barak.

State Department officials, who set up a working area for domestic and international press in the college's Butcher Center, were preparing to have the area disassembled Monday. State Department personnel were expected to begin leaving town Monday evening or early today depending on how long it took to pack up equipment, Reeker said.

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