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      Clinton and Lieberman Meet After 18 Month Freeze

      US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met in Washington after Fatah, Hamas reconcile
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 2/7/2012, 7:58 PM

      Lieberman
      Lieberman
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      US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met Tuesday in Washington.

      The meeting reportedly lasted for 45 minutes, during which they discussed Iran's nuclear program, stalled negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and the destabilizing situation in Syria.

      According to a Foreign Ministry statement Lieberman thanked Clinton for the US' firm stand vis-à-vis Iran, saying the tough sanctions brought to bear by the US in recent weeks "conveyed an important message to the region."

      The visit is the first face to face meeting between Lieberman and Clinton in 18 months. There has been widespread speculation that Clinton has been intentionally ducking a meeting with Lieberman.

      That speculation came to a head in late January with direct questions from reporters, which observers say may have forced the US State Department to schedule the meeting.

      It is well-known in Washington and Jerusalem that the Obama Administration does not approve of the hard-line Lieberman whose own policy positions  vis-à-vis the 'Peace Process' are not conducive to US strategic goals.

      Instead, the Obama Administration prefers to use Defense Minister Ehud Barak as an intermediary between the two governments. Barak is known for his dovish views and is considered malleable by Washington insiders.

      Lieberman's visit comes the day after Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmud Abbas signed a deal with the Islamist movement Hamas to end a longstanding rift between the two main Palestinian groups.

      US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to comment on the reconciliation deal beyond saying that it was "an internal Palestinian matter" and "any Palestinian government must clearly commit to non-violence and recognize Israel."

      However, some analysts say Clinton's decision to meet with Lieberman could be intended as a subtle warning to the PLO over its detante with Hamas in recent months rather than any warming of feeling for Lieberman in Washington.