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Obama, Saudi King Agree on Need to Press for Mideast Peace


U.S. President Barack Obama says he and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah have discussed the importance of a two-state solution for Middle East peace that secures a Palestinian homeland alongside a strong and prosperous Israeli state.

Mr. Obama, speaking Tuesday after bilateral meetings at the White House, said he and the Saudi monarch agreed that efforts to forge peace must move forward in a "significant and bold way." The president said the two also talked about the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Iran's nuclear program.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said King Abdullah assured Mr. Obama of his continued support for the Arab Middle East peace proposal. The 2002 plan, initiated by the Saudi monarch, offers Israel recognition in exchange for returning the occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he does not believe there is a possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2012 - the target date set by international negotiators.

Lieberman spoke ahead of U.S. envoy George Mitchell's return to the region to mediate another round of indirect peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on July 6.

The Palestinians want a state in areas Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Mr. Netanyahu has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, but with strict conditions, and without Palestinian control of East Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country with the world's largest oil reserves, shares Western concerns over Shi'ite Iran's nuclear program. But the King Abdullah has said economic sanctions will not stop Tehran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The Saudi leader would like the U.S. to do more to resolve the issue, but Riyadh says it does not want to see a regional military conflict. The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military action to stop Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

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

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