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Palestinians Say Indirect Mideast Talks Have Started

A senior Palestinian official today announced the start of indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told reporters in Ramallah: "I can officially declare today that the proximity talks have begun."

He spoke after a meeting between U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who is to mediate the negotiations, and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.

Earlier in the day in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a swift move from U.S.-mediated indirect talks to face-to-face contacts.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on May 8 approved indirect talks with Israel, clearing the way for the first negotiations in 18 months.