Obama pushes for Middle East peace talks

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President Barack Obama, following talks with Jordan's King Abdullah, said yesterday that it was "more vital than ever" to get Israel and the Palestinians back to negotiations towards a peace deal.

But Obama, starting a week of intense Middle East diplomacy against the backdrop of popular unrest sweeping the Arab world, offered no new proposals for breaking the Israeli-Palestinian impasse after the failure of US-led peace efforts.

The president plans to give a policy speech on the Middle East tomorrow, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday and address an influential pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday.

Praising the King's reform efforts, Obama said the US was helping Jordan with economic aid and providing 50,000 metric tons of wheat to ease the pain of high world-commodity prices.

"I am pleased to announce that we have mobilised several hundreds of millions of dollars through Opec, and that will leverage ultimately about a billion dollars for economic development inside of Jordan," Obama said. He provided no details.