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In brief: Obama insistent on settlements

President Barack Obama on Tuesday told Israel’s defense minister that Jerusalem must stop allowing West Bank settlements to grow, reiterating his stance in the hours before leaving for the Middle East on a trip to improve relations with Muslims.

Obama and Ehud Barak left the White House in disagreement over Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory that have become a symbol of defiance against Palestinians who want their own state.

Barak, a former Israeli prime minister who came close to a peace deal during President Bill Clinton’s administration, met for two hours with Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. Jim Jones, about their countries’ public disagreement. Obama surprised Barak and joined the meeting for 12 minutes.

Obama repeated his call for Israel to stop settling on land Palestinians want for their own state. Israeli leaders have refused a wholesale end to the settlements.

The stalemate continued ahead of Obama’s departure for Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Obama plans a speech about U.S.-Muslim relations in Cairo on Thursday.

China clampdown includes Twitter

Beijing – Chinese authorities shut down blogs, Internet forums and social media sites such as Twitter in an apparent attempt to stem online political discussion ahead of Thursday’s 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on 1989’s Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

As in past years, dissidents were rounded up and shipped out of Beijing and foreign media reports on the protests and continuing calls for an independent investigation into the events of June 3-4, 1989, have been blocked.

However, the cutoff of Internet sites marks a new chapter in the authorities’ attempts to muzzle dissent, one that testifies to the burgeoning influence of such technology among young Chinese in an authoritarian society where information is tightly controlled.


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