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Arab League Gives Mideast Talks One-Month Reprieve

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, listens to Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem, right, and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, during the Arab Foreign Ministers Peace Initiative meeting, in Sirte, Libya, 8 Oct. 2010

Arab foreign ministers are giving the United States one month to convince Israel to renew a freeze on settlement construction. The move keeps Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from collapsing just a month after they were relaunched.

Arab League members have backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in calling on Israel to stop building in the occupied West Bank before direct negotiations can resume.

After a League committee meeting Friday in Sirte, Libya, the group said it will meet again in one month to study alternative proposals by Mr. Abbas and decide their next course of action.

Arab diplomats say among the ideas being considered would be to appeal to the United Nations for more direct action.

The extension brings the talks back from the brink after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls from the U.S., the European Union and others to renew a construction freeze that expired late last month.

Mr. Netanyahu was under pressure to let the ten-month moratorium expire from conservative members in his government, who blamed Palestinians for failing to talk advantage of the freeze earlier.

The settlement issue has long frustrated Mideast negotiators, as continued building makes a viable Palestinian state more difficult to create. Along with borders, security and refugees, settlements are one of the core framework issues this latest attempt at peace talks hopes to resolve within one year.

The one month grace period would put the Arab League's review of options after the November mid-term elections in the United States . The timing could protect President Barack Obama from reaction to any compromises needed to keep the talks alive.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell have been in frequent contact with all parties involved, in an effort to forestall a threatened walk-out by the Palestinians if the freeze was not renewed.