Obama to visit Jerusalem in new attempt to win peace
US president wants Israel/Palestine deal to be agreed before year-end
Barack Obama will visit Jerusalem within months to press for a Middle East peace deal to be signed this year and implemented within a decade, according to a leaked report.
The US president's plan calls for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet regularly over the coming year, White House documents cited in Israeli newspaper 'Yediot Aharonot' claim.
Mr Obama, for whom Middle East peace is a key goal, will make his first visit as president to the region to persuade both sides to agree to concessions and will oversee new direct talks between them next week in Washington.
Meanwhile, in a separate development it was claimed yesterday that the announcement by Mr Obama that US troops will begin pulling out of Afghanistan in July 2011 has raised Taliban morale, according to the country's president, Hamid Karzai.
He also said there would be no progress in the nine-year campaign while insurgents still had safe havens in Pakistan.
His comments have intensified the debate about whether the July 2011 milestone was feasible or encouraged rebels to believe they could hold on until foreign troops started leaving. Mr Karzai told visiting US congressmen that the date had boosted Taliban morale "to some extent".
Washington has emphasised that the deadline will only mark the start of a withdrawal and depends on progress in stabilising the country.
Several military commanders this week suggested progress will not be swift.
Mr Karzai has repeatedly voiced frustration that Nato is not doing enough to pursue Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Afghanistan's security adviser, said US efforts in Afghanistan were being betrayed by Islamabad's support for terrorists.
"While we are losing dozens of men and women to terrorist attacks every day, the terrorists' main mentor continues to receive billions of dollars in aid and assistance. How is this fundamental contradiction justified?" he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)