U.S. Envoy in Jordan to Revive Peace Talks

AMMAN, Jordan - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch held talks yesterday with Jordan's foreign minister, the latest in diplomatic efforts aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Welch's talks with Foreign Minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib in Amman came a day after he participated in a Cairo gathering of envoys from the "Quartet" of patrons of the peace process - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

The diplomatic push came amid Palestinian efforts to form a coalition government to replace the one led by the militant group Hamas.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said this week his Fatah movement and Hamas were close to an agreement and that the new government would be "formed soon."

The Quartet insists that the new government, even if it still includes Hamas, must clearly support negotiations and recognize Israel.

Welch also met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Abbas and Arab League chief Amr Moussa.

Arab diplomats in Cairo said Wednesday that Welch urged the three to abide by an international embargo imposed on the Hamas-led government to keep pressure on the militant group - despite an Arab League resolution this week to break the blockade. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the closed-door talks.

It was not immediately clear if Welch was making the same request to Jordan.

In talks with Abbas in Amman two days ago, King Abdullah II called for lifting the crippling embargo on the Palestinians, saying it will no longer be plausible after a coalition government is formed in the Palestinian territories.