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Efforts to relaunch Mideast talks stall

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's furious efforts to relaunch stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks this summer are going nowhere, and a looming UN confrontation could further set back prospects for a negotiated settlement any time soon.

Despite attempts to get the parties back to the table based on parameters President Barack Obama outlined in a May speech, U.S. and other officials say neither side appears willing to commit to new discussions.

Senior officials from the international group of Mideast peacemakers -- the United States, UN, European Union and Russia -- plan to meet Monday in Washington. The goal is to revive the process by increasing pressure on the two sides to return to talks.

The mediators "will come together and will compare notes about where we are and plot a course forward," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday.

Yet repeated visits to Israel and the West Bank last month by U.S. envoys have produced no tangible results. That's been the case, too, in recent talks in Washington between U.S. officials and their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.

This past week, the new U.S. special Mideast peace envoy, David Hale, and White House adviser Dennis Ross pressed the chief Palestinian peace negotiator on one of the biggest points of contention, a Palestinian plan to win UN recognition as an independent state.

Israel and the U.S. support an eventually independent Palestine but oppose the attempt to establish one without negotiation with the Jewish state.

In a sign of the intractability of the decades-long deadlock, negotiator Saeb Erekat said immediately after Wednesday's meeting that the Palestinians were more determined than ever to win recognition when the UN General Assembly meets in September.

Erekat said those opposing the Palestinians need to "rethink their position." The measure probably will pass, providing the Palestinians with increased diplomatic power, even if independence still will need the council's approval. The United States would surely veto any such resolution.

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