Secretary of State James A. Baker III, in a reversal of policy, said Wednesday that the United States is ready to discuss sending a U.N. observer force to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
At a White House news conference, Baker said, "We would be prepared to discuss the question of a U.N. observer team if that indeed comes up at the U.N. Security Council session."
Israel opposes the presence of any international force in the areas that it occupies, and the United States has traditionally supported that position.
The issue is expected to arise Friday at the U.N. Security Council. The session is being moved to Geneva, from New York, so that Yasser Arafat, Palestine Liberation Organization chairman, can attend. The United States has denied him a visa in the past.
In Washington, officials said the U.S. government received an informal approach Monday from the United Nations for permission for Arafat to come to the United States but that the request was never followed up.