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Signs of Mideast peace progress; tension remains

Signs of Mideast peace progress; tension remains
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As a push to resume peace talks looks to be gaining momentum, tension in the Middle East remains acute on the ground.

Today Jewish settler leaders demonstrated in Jerusalem to express their anger at a partial building freeze ordered by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Balancing the demands of settlers and their champions with those of the Palestinians, the US and others is proving difficult for Israel’s Premier. His limited, 10-month moratorium on settlement construction, which excludes Jerusalem, has been rejected by the Palestinian President as insufficient.

Mahmoud Abbas has insisted Israel cease all settlement activity before talks can be launched.
He is expected to meet Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak tomorrow, where he will reportedly be pressed to attend a proposed summit later this month, to officially relaunch the stalled peace process.

Palestinian divisions pose additional problems, with Gaza run by Hamas. But its exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, on a visit to Saudi Arabia, said his Islamist group was in the final stages of achieving reconciliation with Abbas’ Fatah faction.

Another potential stumbling block to resuming talks is Arab anger at key mediator Egypt’s decision to build an underground wall along its border with Gaza to curb smuggling. Clerics from a Sunni political party staged a protest today outside Egypt’s Embassy in Lebanon.