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Clinton Announces Aid to Palestinian Authority, Meets with Egyptian Counterpart

State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton waves to Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad, seen on a video monitor, during a video conferencing at the State Department in Washington, announcing the transfer of budget assistance funds to the Palestinian Authority, 10 No

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced new funding to the Palestinian Authority and held talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday, a day before her scheduled meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York.

Clinton said that she and her Egyptian counterpart discussed several issues here in Washington, ranging from Israeli-Palestinian issues to the international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"It is important that we do everything we can at a particularly sensitive time in the region to try to redouble our efforts to achieve a two-state solution [to Israeli-Palestinian tensions], to help stabilize the situation in Sudan, and to work to ensure that the people of Lebanon can have accountability in the search for justice," said Hillary Clinton.

Clinton said that the issue at the top of the agenda was the need for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks toward a two-state solution.

The U.S. Secretary of State has echoed President Barack Obama's criticism of Israel's announcement this week that it is moving ahead with plans to build 1,300 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit told reporters at the State Department that Egyptian officials believe the United States is making a serious effort to bring both parties to the negotiating table and that Israel needs to show it is serious about peace.

"I have to tell you that we are concerned," said Aboul Gheit. "We are concerned because we feel that Israel is not doing what is required on the Israeli side to do."

U.S.-brokered peace talks stalled last month when Israel did not extend a freeze on most West Bank settlement activity. The Palestinians say they will not return to the talks without an extension of the freeze.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat has said that in the absence of peace talks, the Palestinians might seek support in the United Nations for a declaration of independence.

Clinton said the United States believes that both sides should refrain from unilateral actions that could jeopardize the peace process.

Earlier, Clinton announced that the United States has transferred $150 million in new aid to the Palestinian Authority to help close its budget gap.

"This new funding will help the Palestinian Authority pay down its debt, continue to deliver services and security to its people, and keep the progress going," she said. "It will support our work together to expand Palestinians' access to schools, clinics and clean drinking water in both the West Bank and Gaza [Strip]."

The secretary of state said the funds bring U.S. direct budget assistance to the Palestinian Authority to $225 million this year. Overall support and investment to the Palestinians is nearly $600 million for the year.