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December 10, 2010

Clinton: US to Push Mideast Peace

US secretary of state meets with Israeli and Palestinian officials

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will no longer be a "passive participant" in the Middle East peace talks but will instead push the two sides to deal with "core issues without delay."

Clinton met with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Friday in Washington.

She said U.S. special envoy George Mitchell will head back to the region next week.  She said the negotiations will concentrate on divisive issues such as borders and security, settlements, water, refugees and Jerusalem, which Israel says is its capital but which the Palestinians hope will serve as the capital of their future state.

Clinton made the remarks in her first Mideast policy address since the U.S. abandoned efforts to persuade Israel to extend a freeze on new settlement construction.

Palestinians oppose Israeli construction on land they want as part of a future state.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen former European leaders are urging the European Union to take a stronger stance against Israel on the settlement issue.

Reuters news agency says that in a letter the leaders have called for a "rapid and dramatic move" to stop Israeli settlement expansion.  The letter is signed by officials that include former heads of state.

Palestinian officials say President Mahmoud Abbas has requested an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers to discuss the repercussions of Washington's move.  That meeting is expected in the Egyptian capital within days.