WASHINGTON—Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel said Thursday that he hoped that high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials would come together to explore ways of restarting peace efforts at a conference of Nobel laureates next week in Jordan.
"I have much hope for movement," he said in a telephone interview with Knight Ridder.
Thirty Nobel Prize winners are to meet in the Jordanian city of Petra on Tuesday and Wednesday to consider ways in which they might use their influence and moral authority to help find solutions to some of the world's most dire problems.
The second conference co-sponsored by foundations headed by Wiesel and King Abdullah of Jordan is convening amid a surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a bloody power struggle between Hamas, the Islamic party that now runs the Palestinian government, and the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Wiesel said high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials would address the conference about the crisis and that he hoped they'd meet to consider how long-stalled peace efforts might be restarted.
"We expect to have high-level negotiations there, maybe, within the framework of our conference," said Wiesel, a survivor of Nazi death camps during World War II and an author of more than 30 books who won the Peace Prize in 1986. "Whether they come together or not, it's not clear yet."
He declined to identify the Israeli and Palestinian officials who are to attend.
Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas until it drops its refusal to recognize Israel and renounces violence. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that if a negotiated settlement isn't found soon, Israel will establish its final border with the Palestinians unilaterally.
Olmert's government recently moved to bolster security forces loyal to Abbas against Hamas.
The conference, called "Petra II: A World Endangered," also will consider other threats to global security, including religious fanaticism, poverty and environmental degradation.
The laureates plan to launch an initiative to resolve the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.
"The explosive danger is the fanaticism that has gained power . . . in every religion," Wiesel said. "I think it's growing everywhere, in every religion. I'm not saying they (extremists) are dominant. Even in the Jewish religion, we have our fanatics."
"I believe the danger is growing from day to day, from country to country, from continent to continent," he said.
Wiesel singled out Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the major threat to international security, noting the Iranian leader's denial of the killing of some 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II and his threat to "wipe Israel off the map."
Ahmadinejad "is a maniac who is mentally ill, who is the No. 1 Holocaust denier and who threatens to destroy a sovereign nation," Wiesel said. "He clearly says there was no Holocaust, but there will be one."
U.S. and European officials suspect Ahmadinejad's regime of using Iran's civilian nuclear program as cover to develop nuclear weapons.
The Nobel laureates gathering in Petra are from all the disciplines in which the prize is awarded: peace, economics, literature, physics, chemistry, and physiology and medicine. They'll include the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, and Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka.
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
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