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France “regrets” postponement of European Mideast peace bid

France said Wednesday it regretted the postponement of a Middle East Quartet meeting due in Berlin this week aimed at breaking the peace process deadlock.

Diplomats at the United Nations said Tuesday that the meeting planned for Friday was put off because the United States was blocking a European bid to break the stalemate.

"We regret the postponement of the Quartet meeting set to be held in Berlin on April 15," French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero told journalists.

"We call on the Quartet to adopt as soon as possible a statement detailing final status issues - notably borders and security - so that direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians can resume on this basis," he said.

Top officials from the Quartet - the United States, European Union, Russia and the UN - had already had one meeting in March pushed back.

Britain, France and Germany had wanted to use the Berlin Quartet meeting this week to propose the outline of a final settlement for the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

They have been pressing for a Quartet statement, setting out the framework for a deal such as borders and a land swap, which they hoped would revive direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, told AFP that Britain, France and Germany "have been working at the highest level for the acceptance of these parameters to pave the way for the resumption of direct talks.

"It appears that Washington is not yet ready to accept this outline."

Mansour said that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will go to France to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy early next week.

The United States set a target date of September this year for an accord on setting up an independent Palestinian state.

Direct Israel-Palestinian talks ended in late September when Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlement building in the occupied territories. Israel has insisted that all issues, including the settlements, should be hammered out in direct talks.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon