Obama to meet with Israel's Netanyahu on Monday

US President Barack Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for the first time since US efforts to restart Middle East peace talks stalled, a White House official said.

The US president will host Netanyahu at the White House's Oval Office on Monday evening, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Israeli prime minister arrived in Washington on Sunday evening for a three-day trip during which he is scheduled to address a Jewish group and meet with members of Congress.

The White House had previously declined to confirm the meeting, forcing Israeli officials to deny that the absence of a White House invitation would be a snub to Netanyahu.

The hawkish prime minister has defied US calls for a freeze to settlement construction, instead offering a limited proposal to ease new construction.

That offer falls far short of Palestinian demands but was nonetheless welcomed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as "unprecedented" during a trip to the region last week.

After her remarks prompted Arab fury, Clinton was forced to backtrack and insist the US administration still favored a total freeze on settlement construction.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has said a freeze is a precondition for restarting peace talks that have been stalled for nearly a year.

source AFP

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