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Israeli PM to meet Brown amid Mideast peace drive

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 09:52

London: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday as efforts gain pace to relaunch the dormant Middle East peace talks within weeks.

The hawkish Netanyahu, who will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Thursday, will also discuss with his hosts international efforts to halt arch foe Iran`s nuclear drive as the United States threatens new sanctions if Tehran fails to return to the negotiating table.

He will also meet in London US President Barack Obama`s Middle East envoy George Mitchell who is pressing Israel hard to freeze settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Britain and Germany are among the many states to back the US demand, seen as key for reviving the peace talks which were halted last December when Israel launched a deadly offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu appeared to be digging his heels in, although he has agreed to temporarily halt inviting construction tenders for Israeli homes in the occupied West Bank, which Obama termed a step in the right direction.

"In his meeting with George Mitchell, the Prime Minister expects some progress but not a breakthrough," a senior official told reporters.

"The Prime Minister will make it clear that during the process Israel will not allow any limitation or restriction of its sovereignty over Jerusalem and that there must be guarantees settlers can lead a normal life," he said.

The issue of Israeli settlements, which the international community consider illegal, is one of the main obstacles in the peace process and the Palestinians have said they will not resume talks without a freeze.

On Sunday Netanyahu said he hoped the rare public row over settlements with Israel`s main ally would end in the coming weeks to allow the renewal of peace talks by the end of September.

A senior government official said that efforts were underway to set a three-way meeting with Obama and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next month.

"We hope the conditions will ripen to allow a meeting with Abbas and Obama in New York as a symbolic launching of peace talks. This seems feasible at this point," he said.

There was no Palestinian reaction to the statement.

The US State Department echoed optimism on peace talks, spokesman Ian Kelly saying he was hopeful they would restart "very soon."

"I don`t want to go into the details of exactly why, but just to say that we are hopeful that we can resume very soon," Kelly told reporters in Washington.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 09:52
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