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Monday April 12, 2010 9:03 PM (EST+7)
Obama presses for Mideast talks, Iran sanctions

Read more: Barack Obama, King Abdullah, Middle East peace process

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - US President Barack Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to launch indirect peace talks soon, and Obama called for further pressure on Iran, including sanctions, over its nuclear program.

The White House said Obama and the Jordanian monarch discussed stalled Middle East peace efforts and the Iranian nuclear standoff in talks on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in Washington.

The Obama administration is seeking to get Israel and the Palestinians to sit down for US-sponsored proximity talks aimed at jump starting the faltering peace process, but has made little headway.

Jordan, which is the only Arab state besides Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, is seen as a potential key player in any broader regional peace deal.

During these discussions, both agreed that Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks should begin as soon as possible, and transition quickly to direct negotiations, the White House said. They also agreed that both sides should refrain from actions that undermine trust during these talks.

The Jordanian embassy issued a statement that mostly matched the US comments but added that Abdullah also raised Jordan's concerns about Israeli unilateral actions in Jerusalem, stressing on the necessity of stopping all such Israeli actions that seek to change facts on the ground.

Ties between Washington and its close ally Israel have been strained in recent months over Israeli settlement construction policy in and around Jerusalem.

Iran was also on the agenda. President Obama stressed the importance of international efforts to pressure Iran to ensure that it upholds its international obligations, including through the imposition of sanctions, the White House said.

Adding a new wrinkle, the Jordanian embassy said Abdullah called for resolving the Iran dispute by diplomatic means.

Jordan and other Arab countries are worried about the potential Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and trigger a Middle East arms race. Israel is widely believed to be the region's only nuclear weapons power.

On the sidelines of the summit, Obama is using a series of meetings with world leaders to seek momentum for new UN sanctions on Iran. Tehran denies Western accusations it seeks nuclear weapons and says it has only peaceful intentions.






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