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Sunday Feb. 14, 2010 7:37 AM (EST+7)
Clinton heads to region to garner support for talks

Read more: Hillary Clinton, US policy, US foreign policy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia

SHANNON, Ireland, Feb. 14 (Arshad Mohammed/Reuters) - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeks to win greater Arab support for reviving Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations, which have been frozen for more than a year, during a visit to the Gulf this week, US officials said on Saturday.

Speaking as she set off on a three-day visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the officials said Clinton also hoped to enlist more Arab diplomatic pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

US President Barack Obama has made little headway in his effort to restart the peace talks or to persuade Iran to rein in a civil nuclear program which the West, as well as many Arab states, suspect is a cover to develop atomic weapons.

The United States is leading a push for the UN Security Council to impose a fourth round of sanctions on Iran, which says its nuclear program is to generate electricity so it can export more of its valuable oil and gas.


Clinton is scheduled to meet Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani on Sunday and Saudi King Abdullah on Monday.

The centerpiece of Clinton's trip is a speech on Sunday at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, a meeting hosted by the Qatari government and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy of the Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank.

Aides described her appearance as a sequel to Obama's June speech in Cairo, in which he called for an end to the cycle of mistrust and discord between the United States and the Muslim world and sought to pave the way for better relations.

While Obama's speech was well received by many, there has been deep unhappiness among Arabs at his inability to get Israel to stop building Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

A year of US diplomatic efforts has so far failed to revive talks aimed at ending the six-decade conflict through a peace treaty that would create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Having failed to get Israel to undertake a total settlement freeze or to get Arab states to take confidence-building steps such as reopening Israeli trade offices as a first step toward negotiations, Washington now simply wants to get talks going.

Clinton planned to discuss how Arab states might give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas political cover to help him resume peace talks despite the absence of a settlement freeze.

What we would like to see right now is for the Arab states to provide the support that President Abbas feels he needs in order to enter ... negotiations, he said. Let's stop talking about negotiating. Let's actually get the negotiations moving. (Editing by Matthew Jones)






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