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Mideast

Clinton moderates her settlement remarks

November 03, 2009|Times Wire Reports

In the face of Arab criticism of the administration's recalibrated Mideast peace tack, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton moderated her praise for Israel's offer to restrain building settlements in Palestinian areas.

Though Israel was moving in the right direction in its offer to restrict but not stop the settlements, Clinton said, its offer "falls far short" of U.S. expectations.

Clinton said her earlier praise of Israel's offer had been intended as "positive reinforcement." But it drew widespread criticism from Persian Gulf ministers who interpreted it as a softening of the U.S. position on settlements, which stand in the way of a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In a sign of U.S. eagerness to calm Arab concerns about the U.S. position on settlements, Clinton is extending her trip by one day to fly to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, her staff announced.

Clinton's earlier comments appeared to reflect a realization within the Obama administration that Benjamin Netanyahu's government will not accept a full-on settlement freeze and that a partial halt may be the best lesser option. Her appeal seemed designed to make the Israeli position more palatable to the Palestinians and Arab states.

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