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US Envoy Ends Middle East Trip Without Talks Resuming

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell departed Wednesday for the United States after his latest bid to launch direct Israeli-Palestinian talks ended without a resumption of the negotiations.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Mitchell during their meeting in Jerusalem that Israel is ready for direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Mr. Netanyahu called for talks without preconditions.

Mitchell told the Israeli prime minister the U.S. shares Israel's objectives, and will continue to work with Israel's leaders, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But Mitchell failed Tuesday to persuade Mr. Abbas to engage in direct talks with Israel. The Palestinian leader wants agreement first on an agenda and timeline for negotiations.

The Palestinians also are demanding a complete freeze on Israeli settlement construction on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

The Obama administration has been pushing for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume early next month. Direct talks between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu's predecessor, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, broke off in December 2008.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.