Clinton Tries to Reassure Arab Leaders on Israeli Settlements
Clinton Tries to Reassure Arab Leaders on Israeli Settlements

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met with Egypt's president as she tries to reassure Arab leaders the Obama administration stands firmly against Israeli settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land.  

Secretary of State Clinton said Washington remains committed to the principle of ending Israeli construction on Palestinian territory.

"Our policy on settlements has not changed.  We do not accept the legitimacy of settlement activity, and we have a very firm belief that ending all settlement activity, current and future, would be preferable," she said.

Clinton spoke after a hastily-arranged visit with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.   Her stop in Cairo came at the end of a regional tour aimed, in part, at reviving the stalled Middle East peace talks.  But her praise on Saturday for Israel's offer to "limit" settlement development angered many in the Arab world, where the praise was taken as a sign of shifting U.S. policy.

The international peace plan, adopted in 2003, calls for an end to all settlement activity.

Clinton repeatedly tried to clarify her remarks about Israel's position during meetings in Morocco and, again, in Egypt.

"It is not what we would prefer, because we would like to see everything ended forever," she said. "But it is something that I think shows at least a positive movement toward the final status issues being addressed.

Cairo has been a key U.S. ally in Mideast peace efforts, as one of the few Arab nations with formal ties to Israel.   But those relations have been increasingly strained by Israel's continued building in occupied Palestinian areas and the concern the expanding Israeli outposts could soon make a viable Palestinian state more unlikely.

Egypt has also been frustrated in its efforts to reconcile the rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, despite mediating numerous rounds of talks.