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Israel, Palestinians hold ‘positive’ talks

AMMAN: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a “positive” first face-to-face meeting in more than 15 months on Tuesday, saying they remain committed to a two-state solution but that full-blown talks are still some way off.

“The talks and atmosphere were positive,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told reporters after the talks in Amman between Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat and Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh.

Washington too welcomed what it described as a “positive development” after months of deadlock in peace talks over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal in 2010 to renew a freeze on most settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Judeh, who hosted the meeting in the Jordanian capital, voiced cautious optimism. “The two sides expressed their commitment to a two-state solution. We do not want to raise the level of expectations, but at the same time we do not want to minimise the importance of this meeting,” he said.

“The Palestinians submitted a paper on borders and security. The Israeli side received it, promising to study it and respond,” he said.

The minister said Jordan, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, will host further talks between the two sides.

“Any announcement about the meetings will be made by Jordan. You might hear about the meetings and you might not,” he said, expecting “progress and things to be positive by the end of this month.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday the outcome of the meeting would soon be clear.

“We will know today or in the coming two days,” he said, indicating that they were looking to find “the right foundation” to resume talks with Israel.
“This is a good thing and we hope Jordanian efforts work,” he was quoted as saying by Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency.
Earlier this week, Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor said the fact that a meeting was taking place was “a positive development” but that it did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks.Erakat made the same point in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio.
“This meeting will be devoted to discussing the possibility of making a breakthrough that could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Therefore, it will not mark the resumption of negotiations,” he said on Monday.

Direct talks ground to a halt in September 2010, when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank settlement construction expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it.

“We will see what the quartet’s position will be in this meeting and if it is willing to seriously address the obstacles to the peace process and negotiations put by Israel,” PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine.

Abbas met with US envoy David Hale in Ramallah late on Monday and told him there would be no resumption of talks unless Israel froze settlement construction and accepted the 1967 borders as the basis for peace talks, a Palestinian official told AFP.

The Quartet, which comprises the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, has been trying to draw the two sides back to the negotiating table, asking them for comprehensive proposals on territory and security.

White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the difficulties President Barack Obama faced in getting a resumption of talks.

“He is doing everything he can to bring them together at the table,” Carney said.

“And this is obviously a challenging issue — it has been so for a long time. But the president’s very focused on doing what he can to make it happen.”

Abed Rabbo said Washington wanted the talks to restart “without any preconditions or promises on settlement expansion.
“This does not fulfil the conditions for a resumption of negotiations nor does it enable any negotiations to succeed,” he said.
The meeting sparked an angry reaction from the Hamas movement which has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting Abbas’s forces in 2007.
“Going to such a meeting is only betting on failure,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP on Monday.
The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also criticised the meeting, calling it a “fatal error” which would force the Palestinians back into another pointless waiting game. (AFP)

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Bravo ton takes Windies to mammoth total

 MUMBAI: Darren Bravo continued his dream run with a third century in four Tests to help the West Indies post a mammoth 575-9 on the second day of the third and final Test against India on Wednesday.
Bravo, cousin of former West Indies batting great Brian Lara, dominated the Indian attack with a superb 166 as the tourists scored 308 runs on a batsmen’s day after resuming at 267-2.
Kieran Powell (81), who replaced injured batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Marlon Samuels (61) also made merry on a batting track at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
The West Indies’ batting flourished for a second successive day, with the top-six batsmen all scoring a half-century or more — only the fifth instance in the history of Test cricket.
The left-handed pair of Bravo and Powell consolidated their team’s position with a 160-run stand for the fourth wicket to virtually shatter India’s hopes of making a clean sweep.

The hosts lead 2-0 in the series after winning the opening Test in New Delhi by five wickets and the second match in Kolkata by an innings and 15 runs.

Powell hit nine fours in his second half-century in four Tests before being caught behind off spinner Pragyan Ojha while Bravo became debutant seamer Varun Aaron’s first Test victim, caught behind while attempting to drive.

The day belonged to Bravo, whose superb run in Test cricket began in Bangladesh where he scored 195 in Dhaka for his maiden hundred in his team’s series-clinching victory early this month.

The 22-year-old then cracked a brilliant 136 against India in the last innings of the previous Test in Kolkata before scoring a second successive hundred on Wednesday.

Bravo, 57 overnight, completed his century in the morning with an aggressive shot when he square-drove off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for a boundary. He hit 17 fours in his 284-ball knock.

It was another frustrating day for India on a pitch offering no help to bowlers as they could take just two wickets in the opening two sessions, with paceman Ishant Sharma and Ojha bagging one each.
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni also pressed part-timers Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag into the attack in a desperate bid to break the Bravo-Powell stand before Aaron struck thrice in four overs in the evening.Aaron also bowled Carlton Baugh (four) and had skipper Darren Sammy (three) caught by wicket-keeper Dhoni, who took five catches.He nearly got another wicket but Dhoni missed a difficult chance off Samuels when the batsman was on 46.Sharma was rewarded for his hard work in the opening session when he had Kirk Edwards (86) caught behind with a delivery that moved away.Edwards, 65 overnight, looked set for his third century in six Tests as he began on an impressive note, flicking and pulling Aaron for two fours in the opening hour.
He hit 13 fours in his 165-ball knock and added 164 for the third wicket with Bravo. (AFP)

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Man City too good for Liverpool

Man City too good for Liverpool

Manchester City recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland and opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Liverpool.
Roberto Mancini’s side faced a test of character and resilience with a swift turnaround to play again only 48 hours after the loss at the Stadium of Light – and they passed the examination impressively.
Liverpool were denied striker Luis Suarez’s potency as they decided not to appeal against the eight-game ban handed down after the Football Association found the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.And they sorely missed Suarez’s menace as they enjoyed plenty of possession but never threatened to turn it into tangible reward.
Mancini incredulous at Man City fixtures
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s error gifted Sergio Aguero an early goal and Yaya Toure rose to head home David Silva’s corner for a second before the break.
The only blot on City’s night came when Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he misses Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United, but they sealed the win when James Milner scored from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Toure.

It gave City the advantage over closest rivals United before their visit to Newcastle on Wednesday and enabled them to regain momentum after a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion and the 1-0 reverse at Sunderland.

Liverpool’s efforts lacked punch despite the vast expense lavished on their forward line by manager Kenny Dalglish and they ended well beaten.

Stewart Downing was thwarted by Joe Hart’s crucial early block from Jordan Henderson’s fine pass before Reina gifted City their opening goal.Aguero’s shot was testing in the stormy conditions but the Spaniard made the basic error of failing to get his body behind the ball and the 20-yard shot dipped underneath him to relieve City’s early nerves.

The Argentine then lifted a shot just over before Edin Dzeko’s effort took a heavy deflection off Glen Johnson and flew inches wide with the anxious Reina totally wrong-footed.

As Liverpool appeared to be getting a foothold in proceedings, the hosts struck again 12 minutes before the interval.

Reina made amends for his earlier error by turning Vincent Kompany’s header over the top, but when Silva returned the resulting corner Yaya Toure got ahead of Johnson to head high past the the visiting keeper.

Kompany made a vital intervention at the other end to ensure City protected their two-goal lead until half-time, throwing himself bravely in front of Dirk Kuyt’s shot as the Dutchman moved to turn in Andy Carroll’s header.Once more the Reds saw plenty of the ball after the restart, but their lack of threat prompted Dalglish to make a double change just before the hour mark, sending on Steven Gerrard and former Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy for the disappointing Charlie Adam and Kuyt.

They failed to make any serious inroads into the home defence, although they were given brief hope when Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, an innocuous block on Daniel Agger, with 17 minutes left.
If they did have any hopes of a revival, they were snuffed out two minutes later when referee Mike Jones – a late replacement for Andre Marriner, who refereed the match in which Suarez had his flashpoint with Evra in October – pointed to the spot after Skrtel tangled with Yaya Toure.

After Mancini had failed in demands to have Skrtel sent off by waving an imaginary red card, Milner converted the penalty emphatically.
Substitute Adam Johnson struck the post with a curling effort as City pressed again, but matters had already been settled well before.
Liverpool kept going and tested City keeper Hart with some late efforts from Gerrard and Downing, but he was more than equal to the task on a bitterly disappointing night for Dalglish’s side.

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