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Page last updated at 19:00 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 20:00 UK

'No agreement' in Mid-East talks

Workers lay the foundations of a new house in the Israeli settlement of Tekoa in the West Bank, 7 September 2009
The US wants a freeze on settlement activity in the West Bank

US envoy George Mitchell's latest round of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East has ended without agreement, US and Palestinian officials say.

Mr Mitchell met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in a fresh attempt at getting a deal on Jewish settlement activity.

He also went to the West Bank to speak with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Mitchell was hoping for a consensus before all sides attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "There is no agreement yet with the Israeli side and no middle ground solution."

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad demands settlement freeze

An Israeli official was reported to have suggested that there may be a hiatus is settlement building in the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, a little longer than previously offered.

"Israel will agree to extend the freeze beyond six months - possibly nine months, but less than a year," the official said according to the Reuters news agency.

'Construction will continue'

Mr Mitchell had prolonged his trip in the Middle East for several days as he pushed for a deal on freezing Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

He ended the talks on Friday without making an announcement.

State department spokesman Ian Kelly later confirmed Mr Mitchell had returned to the US.

Palestinians queue at checkpoint to Jerusalem

"Of course we were hoping for some kind of breakthrough," Mr Kelly said.

The US is seeking a moratorium on settlement building that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side.

Mr Abbas and the US administration have been demanding a complete freeze on Israeli construction activity.

Mr Netanyahu had previously offered a temporary freeze for several months, but not in East Jerusalem or in cases where homes have already been approved.

"There is a slowdown in settlement construction, but not a freeze," he said. "There are 2,400 units being built, and their construction will continue."



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