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US in last-ditch attempt to save Mideast talks

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By Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Frustrated by a new impasse, the White House sent its Mideast envoy to the region Tuesday in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the collapse of peace talks over Israel's decision to allow new construction in West Bank settlements.

Israel refuses to renew a 10-month-old moratorium on housing starts that expired over the weekend, while the Palestinians say there's no point in negotiating if settlements keep expanding on lands they want for their state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has repeatedly threatened to quit the talks unless the freeze continues, has so far rejected informal Israeli proposals of a watered-down moratorium, such as building only in some settlements, Abbas advisers said Tuesday.

However, the Palestinian leader seemed reluctant to walk away from the negotiations, which began just a month ago. Even though the moratorium expired Sunday, he has given the U.S. another week to try to find a compromise, saying he will announce his decision only after Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Monday.

With that deadline looming, U.S. envoy George Mitchell arrived in Israel on Tuesday in a last-minute push to close the gaps.


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