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    Chile Says it is Recognizing a Palestinian State

    Chile says it is recognizing a Palestinian state, joining a similar move by several other Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador.

    The Chilean Foreign Ministry made the announcement in a declaration issued Friday.  Officials also said President Sebastian Pinera would visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories in March.

    The decision comes days after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Brazil and helped lay the cornerstone for a new Palestinian embassy.  He said in an interview with the Associated Press from Brasilia that a group of nations that recently recognized a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders is pressuring Israel and the United States to return to negotiations and reach a peace deal.

    President Abbas, who attended the January 1 inauguration of new Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, said such recognition will help convince the Israelis on the necessity to reach a two-state solution.  Israeli officials said inaugurating an embassy for a non-existent state, and Palestinian efforts to have that state recognized, are not the best way to achieve peace.

    Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the first in nearly two years, began in early September, but stalled after Israel ended a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank.  Mr. Abbas had said previously that negotiations would be called off if Israel failed to extend the settlement freeze.

    President Abbas also gave a New Year's Eve address, asking the international community to draft a new peace plan for the Middle East.

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

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