• Kyodo

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U.S. President Bill Clinton hinted Monday that he might delay or cancel his trip to Japan for the Group of Eight summit later this month to handle the Middle East peace summit that opens Tuesday at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

Asked if developments at the summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestine President Yasser Arafat would prompt changes in his itinerary, Clinton, speaking at the White House, replied, “I don’t want to set an artificial deadline.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa told a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo, “We’ve heard nothing (about any changes in Clinton’s schedule) and we are not assuming such a possibility.”

Speaking at a separate news conference, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono also said he is not aware of any changes in Clinton’s visit to Japan.

The three-day G8 summit opens July 21 in Okinawa.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has already decided to skip the G8 foreign ministers’ meeting in Japan today and Thursday to focus on the Middle East summit.

A White House spokesman said last week the Middle East summit will not affect Clinton’s trip to Japan.