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US Envoy Meets Palestinian President in West Bank


U.S. President Barack Obama's point man in the Middle East was in the second day of a new mission on Thursday as Israel made a fresh offer for a prisoner exchange.

U.S. envoy George Mitchell met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah as part of indirect peace talks with Israel.

"This is part of an ongoing effort to exchange views and to narrow the gaps between the parties on major issues with the goal of moving toward direct negotiations as soon as possible," said Mitchell.

Palestinian officials said the meeting focused on security and the future borders of a Palestinian state.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focused on another key issue - captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. On the fourth anniversary of his capture, Shalit's family is on a 12-day march to Jerusalem to press for his release.

In an address to the nation, Mr. Netanyahu said he is prepared to free 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier. But, he said, Israel would not make a deal "at any price."

Mr. Netanyahu said Israel will not release what he described as "mass murderers" - a reference to militants involved in terrorist attacks with mass casualties. Hamas says that unless these men are released, there will not be a prisoner exchange.

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