- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2001

America's principal Middle East negotiator, Dennis Ross, will not make a final trip back to the troubled region this week and will leave the State Department in February, officials said yesterday.

"It's not likely Dennis will travel to the Middle East this week," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.

After working under Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, Mr. Ross plans to leave government service and write a book.

In the Middle East, Israeli and Palestinian officials were continuing last-ditch efforts yesterday to draft a document that would sum up what they had agreed to so far in peace talks with the Clinton administration led by Mr. Ross.

Mr. Ross had been serving as the Clinton administration's special Middle East coordinator flying thousands of miles each year trying to fashion an Arab-Israeli peace accord.

While he was instrumental in work that led to the 1993 Oslo accords and the peace accord between Israel and Jordan, Mr. Ross' handiwork appeared to collapse last year in a series of failed summits and a Palestinian uprising that has left about 350 Palestinians and about 50 Israelis dead so far.

Mr. Ross, 52, on March 1 is to join the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an influential think tank that has heavily influenced Clinton administration Middle East policy.

The institute has hosted top leaders from Israel and the Arab world. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, was one of its founders in 1985.

Mr. Ross will continue to work on Middle East issues and write a book on his experiences as a U.S. negotiator, a statement released by the institute said yesterday.

"I have had an extraordinary set of experiences over the last decade," said Mr. Ross in the statement. "I am anxious to reflect on them and draw lessons from them about peacemaking and the future of the Middle East."

Mr. Ross served in the Pentagon during the Carter administration before being tapped by President Reagan in 1986 to serve as special assistant and senior director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council.

He then served as director of policy planning for Secretary of State James Baker during the Gulf war, the collapse of Soviet Union, and the Madrid Middle East peace conference.

In the Clinton administration, the Special Middle East Coordinator's Office was created for him.

It is not clear if the office will survive Mr. Ross. Sources at Jewish groups say that U.S. Ambassador to Jordan William Burns is to be brought back to be assistant secretary of state for the Middle East and that his office will undertake the negotiating role Mr. Ross has held.

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