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Saudi urges Obama to impose Mideast solution - paper

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses attendees of the 65th anniversary of the allied landings at the U.S. war cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer June 6, 2009. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

RIYADH (Reuters) - King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has urged U.S. President Barack Obama to impose a solution on the festering Arab-Israeli conflict if necessary, a Saudi newspaper said on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab states want Obama to get tough with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has balked at Palestinian statehood and defied U.S. calls to halt the expansion of Jewish settlements.

King Abdullah told Obama during his visit to Riyadh last week that Arab patience was wearing thin and that a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would be the “magic key” to all issues in the region, al-Hayat said, quoting what it called informed sources.

“We want from you a serious participation to solve the Palestinian issue and impose the solution if necessary,” the Saudi monarch told Obama, according to the paper, which is owned by a nephew of the monarch. It did not elaborate.

Saudi Arabia was the driving force behind an Arab peace initiative first put forward by Arab states in 2002 offering Israel recognition in return for withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967 and a Palestinian state.

Israel has reacted coolly to the offer, renewed in 2007, saying a return of Palestinian refugees to areas now inside Israel would destroy the Jewish character of the state.

“We (Arabs) want to devote our time ... to build a generation capable of confronting the future with science and work,” King Abdullah said, according to al-Hayat.

Saudi Arabia believes the collapse of Middle East peacemaking has given Iran a chance to expand its regional influence through Sunni Islamist groups such as the Palestinian Hamas, as well as its Shi’ite traditional Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.