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Hillary Clinton winds up Mideast trip: no deal, some hope

Hillary Clinton, in Jordan, expresses confidence in Abbas and Netanyahu, but analysts warn of risks to US if talks falter. Israel is still resisting pressure to extend moratorium on settlement construction.

By Staff writer / September 16, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boards her plane at the airport, at the end of her trip, in Amman, Jordan, Sept. 16.

Alex Brandon/AP

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Washington

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton concluded her Middle East trip Thursday without a deal to keep direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority going past the end of the month – but with signs that a compromise might yet be found over an expiring Israeli moratorium on settlement activity.

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Secretary Clinton wrapped up three days of talks in the region in Jordan, where she said her meetings in Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had “convinced” her that “this is the time and these are the leaders to achieve the result we all seek.”

At the same time, special Middle East envoy George Mitchell was traveling to Syria and Lebanon, underscoring the Obama administration’s effort to achieve not just an Israeli-Palestinian accord but a comprehensive regional peace agreement.

Still, with Israel balking at international pressure aimed at winning an extension of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 10-month moratorium on settlement construction – set to expire on Sept. 26 – tensions were rising over efforts to find a way around an approaching crisis. Mr. Abbas has said he would not continue the talks if the moratorium is not extended, while Netanyahu has let it be known that an extension is not in order.

With attention focused on the quest to keep talks going rather than on prospects for progress on substantive issues, some regional analysts are beginning to warn of the dangers for the US if talks so ceremoniously launched by the Obama administration just two weeks ago now die, or even if they find a way to limp along but with no meaningful advances.

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