Obama, Peres talks on Palestinians, Iran

May 5, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, May 5 – President Barack Obama was to meet his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres Tuesday as the allied leaderships diverged on the best approach for peace with the Palestinians and how to deal with Iran.

Peres, the first Israeli leader to meet Obama since the US president took office, was set to raise the concerns of new right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a speech to the main pro-Israel lobby here Monday, Peres omitted a mention of a possible two-state solution, which Obama has embraced but Netanyahu has shied away from since his election in February.

"I shall deliver to him (Obama) a strong message for a country yearning for peace," Peres told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)’s annual policy conference.

"Today, there is a chance for real peace," said the veteran Israeli leader, who shared the Nobel Peace prize for his role in the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians.» At the meeting Peres is also expected to be candid on Israeli worries for Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons ambitions, even if he does not object to Obama’s bid to engage diplomatically with Iran.

Obama has invited Netanyahu, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Washington in the coming weeks and called for "good faith" gestures from all sides, including Israel.

Peres, whose position is mostly ceremonial, has coordinated with Netanyahu, who told the AIPAC conference via satellite hook-up from Jerusalem that he wants to resume peace talks without preconditions and without delay.

Netanyahu said the negotiations would represent the political aspect of a "fresh" triple-track approach that also involves boosting Palestinian security forces and promoting Palestinian economic growth.

Netanyahu has so far refused to publicly endorse the creation of a Palestinian state, and has insisted on focusing efforts on strengthening the West Bank economy before engaging in negotiations on a final status agreement.

The Obama administration remains, however, focused on having a Palestinian state living side by side with a secure Israel.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month warned Israel that it risks losing support from Arab nations against Iran if it does not make progress in peace talks with the Palestinians.


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