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Mideast Peace Talks Stall, Adm. Mullen Criticizes China Over North Korea

West Bank construction
Children of Israeli settlers walk past the site for housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said talks with Israel had hit a major roadblock because of Israel’s refusal to halt the building of settlements on the West Bank. Abbas had shelved the talks in September after a 10-month moratorium on new construction expired. Israel announced plans to build 1,300 new apartments in East Jerusalem earlier this month.

His comments come one day after the United States gave up its condition that Israel suspend further settlements. The Obama administration has been searching for avenues to restart direct talks. The United States had hoped to gain concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in exchange for financial aid.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman countered that the talks had been “deadlocked” anyway, even when the settlements were paused.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to deliver a speech on the Middle East on Friday.

Adm. Mullen Criticizes China For Failing to Condemn North Korean Artillery Attack

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed frustration with China’s muted response after the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong island on Nov. 23 left four South Koreans dead. “China has enormous influence over the North, and therefore they have a unique responsibility,” Adm. Mullen said during meetings with his South Korean counterpart.

China has been cautious in pressuring Pyongyang over the attack, calling instead for a resumption of the six-party nuclear talks and restraint on all sides. The United States has reemphasized its longstanding security alliance with South Korea, where it has more than 28,000 troops stationed, and Japan.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has previously negotiated with North Korea over hostages, is expected to make an unofficial visit again next week, reports Reuters.

18 Killed in Pakistan Suicide Blast, Video May Show U.S. Soldier Held by Taliban

Another suicide attack in northwest Pakistan has claimed the lives of 18 people and injured 33, just days after a government compound was targeted by two suicide bombers in the tribal region near the border with Afghanistan.

The latest attack, reportedly carried out by a teenager, happened on a bus leaving a marketplace near Kohat. An estimated 4,000 people have died in suicide bombings believed to be linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan in recent years.

A newly-released Taliban video appears to show a U.S. soldier, Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in June 2009. Bergdahl is the only known soldier held in captivity in Afghanistan and has appeared in three previously released videos. It is unknown when the most recent footage, posted by the IntelCenter, was filmed.

Bergdahl, a 24-year-old from Idaho, is shown only briefly in the video. He appears gaunt, and is standing next to a Taliban commander believed to have once threatened to kill him.

Chile Prison Fire Kills 81

A prison fire sparked by a riot has killed at least 81 inmates at a prison near Santiago. Witnesses said the gates had been close, impeding escape for those trapped in the blaze.

The prison held 1,900 inmates, more than double the intended capacity.

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