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UN Security Council Backs US-Led Middle East Peace Talks


The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution urging Israelis and Palestinians to fulfill their obligations in securing peace in the Middle East.

Israel and the Palestinians welcomed the resolution. But Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said that continuing negotiations must be accompanied by Palestinian efforts to crack down on terrorist groups and the Hamas militants' control of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials said they are pleased with international support for the peace negotiations.

The U.N. Security Council voted 14 to zero Tuesday to approve the resolution, which declares "irreversible" the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks initiated last year by the United States. The U.S.-Russian drafted resolution also calls on both sides to refrain from actions that could tarnish the outcome of negotiations.

This was the first Security Council resolution adopted on Middle East peace in about five years. Libya, the only Arab member of the council, abstained from voting.

This development comes a day after the international Quartet on Middle East peace (the U.S., Russia, the United Nations and the European Union) said Israeli-Palestinian talks should be accelerated to establish a Palestinian state as soon as possible.

Also Tuesday, the White House said outgoing President George Bush will host Mr. Abbas for talks on Friday.

A White House spokeswoman said the talks will focus on building Palestinian institutions, achieving economic development, and training and deploying Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. Mr. Abbas's office announced the trip last week as a "farewell meeting" between the two leaders.

Separately, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown held talks Tuesday with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The two leaders met in London, a day after Mr. Brown spoke with visiting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad.

Mr. Brown said Monday the settlement issue must be resolved if there is to be lasting peace in the Middle East.

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