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Israel and the Palestinians “are not” on the verge of a peace agreement but they have made significant progress in their negotiations, said State Department spokesman James Rubin. His comments came as U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross is returning to the region for a meeting Wednesday with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and talks the next day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian officials said it is up to the other side to take the steps needed to wrap up a long-delayed agreement.

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