US secretary of state Hillary Clinton defended the American position on West Bank settlements after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, saying the US did not accept the legitimacy of the settlements and wanted their construction halted "forever”. Nonetheless, an Israeli offer to restrain – not halt – construction of these settlements is a positive movement in the direction of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Her stop in Cairo was arranged to help assuage Arab fears that the US was moving back from earlier demands for an Israeli settlement halt after her praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to restrain new settlements. Her new comments apparently did the trick – Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for a resumption of the negotiations. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insists Israel must stop the building before talks resume. Nonetheless, language problems continue to dog Clinton as with her slip of the tongue referring to the goal of “an Israeli capital in East Jerusalem”. As a result, the Obama administration has now apparently concluded that early resumption of high-level negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians was unlikely in the near future – a sour note for one of Obama’s major initial foreign policy goals. Read more: AP, Washington Post, AP
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