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Talks may return to W.Va.

January 17, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Security personnel were preparing Sunday for the return of Syrian and Israeli diplomats, even though a final decision had not been made yet whether peace talks would resume in this college town this week.

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A meeting was held Sunday afternoon with local law enforcement officials, Secret Service agents and officials with the U.S. Department of State to discuss preparations.

Shepherdstown Police Chief Charles Cole Sr. could not be reached for comment.

"Everything's in a state of flux," said Shepherdstown Mayor Vincent Parmesano.

If the peace talks do resume in town this week, the dignitaries are expected to arrive Tuesday with the talks starting up on Wednesday, Parmesano said.

There's a possibility Syrian and Israeli dignitaries may decide to stay in Washington, D.C., Parmesano said.

Parmesano said coordinating officials don't even know yet who would return for the talks.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were in town for the last round, with negotiators from both sides meeting in town from Jan. 3-10.

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If the talks resume here, the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center would still be the central facility and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's National Conservation Training Center probably would be used, Parmesano said.

Coordinators also are considering using other facilities in the Shepherdstown area, but Parmesano would not elaborate.

With Shepherd College students having returned to campus since the last round of talks, not as many campus facilities would be available this time, he said.

Preparations also are being made in case President Clinton returns.

Clinton visited Shepherdstown five times during the last round of peace talks.

Security officials were scouting landing spots for Marine One on Sunday, Parmesano. The president's helicopter had landed at the college's ball field, but with students back security officials aren't sure they want to use that same landing spot, he said.

"We are prepared to receive him if he comes," Parmesano said.

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