The U.S. State Department on Monday reiterated that special Mideast envoy George Mitchell's suggestion that Washington could withhold loan guarantees if Israel continues to delay the peace process was merely a fact of "historical context."

"I know that Senator Mitchell's interview with Charlie Rose last week caused some angst in various quarters perhaps in Israel. Just to clarify this, he wasn't signaling any, you know, particular course of action," Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley said.

Mitchell, when asked in a television interview last week what sort of pressure could be applied to Israel, replied that "under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel."

Mitchell told PBS interviewer Charlie Rose that George W. Bush's administration had done so in the past. But he quickly added that he preferred persuasion to sanctions.

"Mitchell was simply asked a question with an historical context. You know, are there sticks that are available? And I think he mentioned that this is a step that the United States has taken in the past," Crowley said Monday.

"He wasn't signaling that this is something that we're forecasting in the future. You know, but it is - it obviously is something that we have in our toolbox. It's not that we're out, you know, wielding that particular tool at this particular time."

"The reason why Senator Mitchell is in the region or in Europe this week and he will meet with Israeli officials while he's in Europe - have other meetings as we go forward - is expressly to continue to push, you know, the parties and all who are supporting this process, to get the negotiation restarted as quickly as possible where we can," added Crowley. "... Put all the issues on the table and see if we can, you know, move towards a comprehensive peace in the Middle East."

"So this was simply, you know, George Mitchell commenting on a matter of history," he concluded."

Mitchell on Monday arrived in Paris to begin a week of talks with European officials on restarting the Middle East peace negotiations.