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US Envoy in Lebanon for Talks

By VOA News
16 September 2009

US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell arrived in Lebanon late Wednesday for talks with President Michel Suleiman.

Mitchell arrived in Beirut following two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, which failed to resolve differences over halting Israeli settlement construction.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly described Mitchell's meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinians as "good."

Kelly said he believed Mitchell made progress in efforts to get formal peace talks going again, but more meetings are needed.

Kelly added that the U.S. envoy will return to Jerusalem Friday for another round of talks with Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The United States has been trying to arrange a three-way meeting with Palestinian and Israeli leaders during next week's United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Palestinians have said they will participate only if Israel stops building settlements on land that Palestinians want for a state. Washington also supports a construction freeze in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But Israeli officials have said they are only prepared to reduce construction in the West Bank settlements for a limited period. They said East Jerusalem is not a settlement and building there will continue.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. It says construction must continue in the occupied territories to accommodate natural population growth.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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