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US Envoy Gets No Agreement on Middle East Talks


U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has failed to get Palestinian agreement to engage in direct talks with Israel.

A State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, says Mitchell had "serious and positive" talks Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah. But he says Mitchell left without agreement, referring to "difficulties and obstacles" the two sides are facing.

The Obama administration has been pushing for direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume early next month.

Mr. Abbas wants agreement first on a framework, agenda and timeline for the negotiations. The Palestinians also are demanding a freeze on Israeli settlement construction on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says direct talks should begin immediately without conditions.

On Wednesday, Mitchell is expected to meet with Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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.

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