Stalemate in Middle East talks

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Palestinian and Israeli leaders and the US peace envoy yesterday with a return to direct talks on the agenda, but a breakthrough still seemed distant. Egypt has long played a mediating role in Middle East politics, but it is unusual for Cairo to host different leaders on the same day. None of the visitors saw the others, instead having back-to-back talks with Mr Mubarak, who was flanked by his foreign minister and top intelligence officer.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said after the meetings that direct talks were not yet possible. "We are still hopeful we can bridge this gap. The gap between the needs for security for Israel and the borders for the Palestinians," he said.