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Holdup in U.S. aid deal

A top U.S. diplomat postponed a trip to Israel in which the sides were to have signed a deal for boosted defense aid.

State Department Under Secretary Nicholas Burns was to have arrived in Israel on Wednesday to finalize the Bush administration’s recent decision to grant Israel an additional $30 billion in defense grants over the next decade. But the State Department announced at the last minute that the trip had been put off indefinitely without giving reasons.

Israeli political sources suggested that the postponement aimed to head off a potential dispute between Jerusalem and Washington over how the additional funds should be disbursed.

The Bush administration wants incremental increases in the current annual payout of $2.4 billion, whereas the Olmert government wants a large bonus up front, or at least for the new funding to be spread evenly over each of the next 10 years, the Israeli sources said.

The differences could be resolved within a few weeks, the sources said.

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