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Clinton Tries to Appease Arab Anger About Praise for Israeli Settlement Offer


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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to quiet Arab complaints about her praise for an Israeli offer to limit Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Palestinian leaders say the Israeli offer does not go far enough.

Secretary of State Clinton tried for a second day to address Arab complaints that her praise for an offer to limit settlements encourages Israel to sidestep a 2003 promise to end those settlements.

In Jerusalem Saturday, Clinton said an Israeli offer to restrict settlement growth was "unprecedented." That drew a sharp response from Jordan and Egypt, as well as the Arab League. Palestinian officials say Washington condoning settlement activity entrenches the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Clinton says Washington does not condone Israeli settlements. In talks with Arab foreign ministers in Morocco, she said President Obama is standing by U.S. policy that Jewish settlements on Palestinian land are not legitimate.

Addressing the controversy about her remarks, she called for more constructive cooperation.

"We are committed to a two-state solution and we are determined and persistent in the pursuit of that goal," she said. "It is important that we all work toward that objective. And, I think that does require that all parties should be careful about what we say, the kind of recriminations that are so understandable. But we need to work together in a constructive spirit toward this shared goal of a comprehensive peace."

Clinton believes that the American commitment to the peace process is understood by Arab leaders. She thinks that, with their support, the process can move forward, despite what she calls the difficult and tangled history that too often prevents progress.

"We can maintain an allegiance to the past. But we cannot change the past. No matter what we say about it, it is behind us," said Clinton. "Or we can work together and follow the vision and the inspiration of President Obama to help shape a future that will be so much better for the children of both Palestinian and Israeli families."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is ready to return immediately to peace talks, without preconditions. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas says there must first be a complete halt to all Israeli settlements on disputed land. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa says resuming talks without a freeze on those settlements would be futile.

Secretary Clinton says the issue should not block further talks. She will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Wednesday, to discuss how best to get both sides back to negotiations as soon as possible.

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