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OBAMA PUSHES PEACE EFFORT

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vital, he says.

Los Angeles Times

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for progress in solving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as part of the wave of change sweeping through the Mideast.

Speaking after a White House meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Obama said resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict was vital. Obama is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after he addresses the United States on Middle East policy, including the pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

"We will continue to ... encourage an equitable and just solution for a problem that has been nagging the region for many, many years," the president said.

Peace efforts have been stalemated for months on questions including the construction of Israeli settlements, prompting the Palestinians to consider going to the United Nations in the fall to seek official recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood. Complicating the situation is a recent agreement designed to heal the breach between the Palestinian groups running the West Bank and Gaza. The United States, Israel and the West consider Hamas, which runs Gaza, to be a terrorist group.

Last week, former Sen. George Mitchell, the president's special envoy to the Mideast, abruptly resigned. Violence, a constant threat in the region, picked up over the weekend.

Jewish Americans praised: At a White House reception Tuesday, the president praised the contributions of Jewish Americans in the arts, science, the military, business and industry, and in public and community service. May is Jewish American Heritage Month in the United States. Israel celebrates its independence on May 14.

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