Clinton moderates statement on settlements

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MARRAKESH. November 3. KAZINFORM. Facing Arab criticism, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday moderated her praise for Israel's offer to restrain - but not stop - building settlements in Palestinian areas; Kazinform refers to Arab News.

While Israel was moving in the right direction, she said, its offer "falls far short" of US expectations. Clinton said her praise of Israel's offer to restrict Jewish settlement activity had been intended as "positive reinforcement."

Her remarks Saturday had drawn widespread criticism from Arab states, which saw it as an about-face of the US position on settlements.

During a photo-taking session with her Moroccan counterpart, Clinton was asked about the Arab reaction, and she responded by reading a written statement designed to counter skepticism about the Obama administration's views on settlements.

She added, however, that Israel deserved praise for moving in the right direction. "I will offer positive reinforcement to either of the parties when I believe they are taking steps that support the objective of reaching a two-state solution," she said. Clinton is flying to the south-central Moroccan city of Ouarzazate for an audience with King Mohammed VI. Later she will return to Marrakesh for talks with Arab foreign ministers.

She also is expected to meet separately with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who has rejected US appeals for improved Arab relations with Israel as a way to help restart Middle East peace talks, saying the Jewish state is not interested in a deal; Kazinform cites Arab News. See www.arabnews.com for full version.

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