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January 05, 2014

Kerry: 'No Boots On The Ground' in Iraq

by VOA News

The top U.S. diplomat says the United States supports Iraq as it battles against al-Qaida militants who have taken control of a town in Anbar province.

However, John Kerry said Sunday the U.S. will not send any troops to Iraq, calling the battle "their fight." He said the U.S. is "not contemplating putting boots on the ground" in Iraq.

Kerry made his comments before leaving Jerusalem for Jordan and Saudi Arabia where he will discuss his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He was in the region for several days and held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Secretary Kerry says he is making progress on the Middle East peace process, but more work is still needed. He said he hopes Israeli and Palestinian leaders can soon agree on a framework peace deal.

The Secretary of State said a framework agreement would be a "significant breakthrough," though it would be less ambitious than his initial goal of reaching a comprehensive peace deal by April.

Kerry is scheduled to return to Jerusalem later for more talks with the Israeli prime minister.

His visit - the 10th since March - comes as the Israelis and Palestinians accuse each other of sabotaging efforts to reach a two-state solution to their decades-old conflict.

When Kerry met with the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu questioned whether Palestinians are "committed to peace," accusing them of failing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and "embracing terrorists as heroes."

The prime minister was referring to the strong welcome that Palestinian prisoners received in the West Bank this week after being released from Israeli prisons as part of the peace process.

Mr. Abbas has complained about ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, saying Israel is trying to take land that would be part of a future Palestinian state. The U.S. has also criticized Israel's settlement construction as illegitimate and unhelpful.

There also is disagreement over U.S. proposals for security arrangements in the Jordan Valley, where the West Bank borders Jordan.

Israel wants to keep troops there, saying this is essential for security reasons. Palestinians say this would violate the sovereignty of their future state.