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Middle East: Arab leaders meet with Israeli Prime Minister in an attempt to restore public confidence in the peace process

ELLEN FANNING: Three moderate Arab leaders and the Israeli Prime Minister have sat down to dinner in Cairo to try to save the ailing Middle East peace process. Observers are drawing some comfort from the fact that they're talking at all, but expectations of any magic solution are not high.

Middle East correspondent Linda Mottram reports from Cairo that the summit could easily be hijacked by the domestic political concerns of each of the players.

LINDA MOTTRAM: Talking is better than not talking - that appears to be the universal consensus on this emergency summit called by Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, at a time of deep distress on the road to Middle East peace. And on the talking scale, the peace process is looking a little healthier by the day with the announcement ahead of the Cairo summit that Israel and the Palestinians would next week resume their negotiations on long-promised but long-delayed Palestinian elections.

All Israel-Palestinian negotiations were frozen after two Islamic militant suicide bombers took the lives of 21 Israelis a week and a half ago. It was the straw that broke the weary back of Israelis who have seen 54 of their own killed in militant attacks since last October, each one claiming a little more of Israeli public confidence in the peace process. But while one lot of talks will now resume, the real obstacles remain, and bound up in the obstacles are the domestic political agendas of the four players at this summit in Cairo.

If, as Israel is demanding, Yasser Arafat initiates a get-tough campaign with Palestinian militants, he runs the risk of sparking conflict among his own people, and that risks driving more Palestinians into the arms of Islamic groups. If Israel's Yitzhak Rabin can't produce clear evidence that he's able to get a real Palestinian crackdown on militants, the Israeli public demanding security will continue to desert him in droves, ahead of an Israeli election next year. These two leaders bring this domestic baggage to the Cairo talks. Both need to inspire their people that the peace process is worth proceeding with, or both will suffer the fate of all politicians who no longer inspire their people.

The other two participants at the Cairo summit also have domestic agendas to play to. Jordan's King Hussein has been trying to ingratiate himself back into the Arab fold, after going it alone in a peace treaty with Israel last year that has not produced all that Jordanians hoped for. And Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, wanting the mantle of senior Arab leader, is fighting his own Islamic insurgency and deep economic troubles at home.

ELLEN FANNING: Linda Mottram with that report.