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U.S. envoy begins Mideast peace push

Image: George Mitchell meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem
US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, left, meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on June 9, 2009. Brian Hendler / Pool via AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: news services

U.S. envoy George Mitchell began a new push to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on Tuesday by launching a series of meetings with leaders in the region.

Mitchell met Tuesday with Israel's defense minister, as the White House tries to push Israel to halt settlement construction in the West Bank. Mitchell also is to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Tuesday.

In his address to the Muslim world in Cairo last week, President Barack Obama called on Israel to halt Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank .

Netanyahu is at odds with Obama over the president's demand and has not endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy.

That has led to the most public disagreement between Israel and the U.S. in a decade.

Obama spoke to Netanyahu by phone on Monday and the White House said the president "reiterated the principal elements of his Cairo speech, including his commitment to Israel's security."

Netanyahu is to make a major policy speech on Sunday in which a senior official said the Israeli leader would "articulate his vision on how to move forward in the peace process with the Palestinians and with the larger Arab world."

Mitchell is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.

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