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President Nicolas Sarkozy told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday that France is ready to back a new Washington-led peace initiative in the Middle East, a French official said.

The president told Clinton during their Elysee meeting that “France would support a re-engagement of the United States in the Middle East” to “quickly re-launch the peace process,” said the official.

Sarkozy told Clinton that an international conference would be the best way to get the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.

In a related development US National Security Adviser James Jones pledged Friday to push hard to re-launch Middle East peace talks in 2010, warning that Iran may try to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

“History shows that when regimes are feeling pressure as Iran is internally and will externally in the near future, it often lashes out through its surrogates,” he said, in reference to Hezbollah and Hamas

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