No deal: Round of talks ends amid fresh Mideast attacks

JERUSALEM – A mortar attack by Palestinian militants and airstrikes by Israel formed the grim backdrop as Mideast leaders ended their latest round of peace talks Wednesday, still divided on major issues. There was no word on when they would meet again.

The inconclusive U.S.-brokered talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left in doubt the prospects for their new effort to end generations of hostilities in the region and create a sovereign Palestine alongside a secure Israel.

George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for Mideast peace efforts, emerged from an evening session to say the talks had been encouraging but had fallen short of agreement. “A serious and substantive discussion is well under way,” Mitchell told a news conference.

Abbas and Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for about two hours at the Israeli leader’s official residence here and agreed to continue the search for a peace deal, he said.


But the leaders face a looming crisis with the expiration this month of Israel’s partial moratorium on West Bank settlement construction, and it was not clear when they would reconvene. Militants opposed to any deal with Israel have threatened to derail the negotiations. The Israeli military said eight mortars and one rocket hit Israel Wednesday, the highest daily total since March 2009. There were no injuries.


Woman sentenced to death denies reports of 99 lashes

An Iranian woman facing death by stoning after being convicted of adultery appeared Wednesday on state TV to say she has not been whipped or tortured.

Sakineh Mohammad Ashtiani, whose stoning sentence was suspended in July, was allegedly given 99 lashes on Sept. 2 after a British newspaper ran a picture of an unveiled woman mistakenly identified as her, Ashtiani’s lawyer said at the time.

“I have not been tortured, at all. All these words are my own words. Nobody has forced me to appear before camera,” a blurry image of a woman identified as Ashtiani said in brief video footage.


She said reports that she had been lashed for the photograph were “false and rumors.”

The case has caused an international uproar, with several countries condemning the sentence and treatment of the woman.

MAKLI, Pakistan

U.S. special envoy trumpets American flood-aid efforts

The U.S. special envoy to Pakistan sought to highlight Washington’s aid efforts Wednesday during his first visit since massive floods devastated one of America’s most important allies in the war against militancy.

Richard Holbrooke stressed that U.S. support is focused on saving lives, rather than winning hearts and minds or pushing Pakistan to step up operations against al-Qaida and the Taliban. He peppered his visits to two relief camps in southern Pakistan with reminders of just how much the U.S. has done.


“We do it through the international organizations, so it may not be as visible, but it is very big,” said Holbrooke, who wore a baseball cap for most of the visit that said “USAID: From The American People” — a reference to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.S. has donated more than $260 million for flood relief and has provided 18 military helicopters to evacuate people and deliver food and supplies. It has also provided water purification kits and deployed mobile medical teams to help prevent the spread of disease.

But the scale of the disaster, which has killed more than 1,700 people and affected more than 18 million others, has overwhelmed the international community and the Pakistani government.


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